BayCare, American Heart Association and Higi Extend Libraries With Heart Initiative Across Tampa Bay

December 12, 2023
A group of five people are standing lined up in a library at a ribbon cutting event with a gentleman standing in the center holding an oversized pair of scissors.
Representatives from BayCare, American Heart Association and Barbara S. Ponce Public Library celebrate the installation of a new Higi Smart Health Station on Nov. 21.

 

In a major step toward addressing healthcare accessibility and heart health education, BayCare, along with its partners American Heart Association (AHA) and Higi, introduced the first phase of a new Libraries With Heart initiative in mid-November. This initial rollout, featuring four automated health kiosks, is part of a wider plan to deploy 14 machines across Pinellas, Pasco, and Hillsborough counties by mid-2024 and help improve the health of Tampa Bay’s residents. 

On Tuesday, Nov. 21, a ribbon-cutting event and health fair were held at Barbara S. Ponce Public Library of Pinellas Park and attended by members of the community, first responders, interested patrons and representatives of BayCare and AHA. The Higi Smart Health Station installment is the latest effort in the new collaboration between BayCare Health System and the American Heart Association of Tampa Bay.

Currently, a total of 220 Higi stations are active across nine West Central Florida counties that feed data to the BayCare Wellness Program if a user opts in for the option. 

“At BayCare, we are driven by the belief that everyone deserves access to high-quality care,” said Lisa Bell, BayCare’s director of community benefit. “The Higi platform provides a simple yet powerful tool to better enable community access to care, helping our neighbors in underserved communities better understand their own health as well as the resources available to them for support – both to address their immediate and long term care needs through BayCare, as well as the social and environmental factors that happen outside the four walls of a hospital, including access to food, shelter and transportation, which we can support through our partnership with All4HealthFL.”

Hypertension, or high blood pressure, is the leading cause of heart disease and stroke and can be linked to more than half a million deaths in the United States each year.

Gail Sherman, a Pinellas Park resident and regular library patron, attended the event to try out the new Higi machine.

“I’m very interested in staying healthy, and this is a way to monitor my health in between going to the doctor,” said Sherman. “It’s great to have this here because even though I have a blood pressure machine at home, I don’t do the self-checks as often as I should, and my machine collects dust.”   

When asked about her experience on the Higi machine, Sherman noted its simplicity and effectiveness.

“Setting up an account, it’s very user friendly and simple to use. Every time I come to the library, which is quite often, I’ll jump on it and check my blood pressure more often,” added Sherman. 

An older woman with short white hair, wearing glasses and a lime green T-shirt is sitting and smiling while checking her blood pressure at a machine.
Gail Sherman, a Pinellas Park resident, checks her blood pressure at the new Higi Smart Health Station inside Barbara S. Ponce Public Library.

 

Emily Scott, BayCare’s chief transformation and service line officer and an American Heart Association Tampa Bay Metro Board member, reiterated the importance of having accessibility to this type of technology in local communities.   

“About half of adults over the age of 20 in the U.S. have high blood pressure, but many don’t know because it has no obvious symptoms, which is why it is often called the silent killer. This program in our local libraries can help people know their numbers and literally save lives in this community.”

Two women are sitting at a table with a blue BayCare tablecloth with health materials and information in front of them.
BayCare RNs Gwenn Gordon (left) and Johanna Schiemann (right) attend the health fair at Barbara S. Ponce Public Library for the launch of the new Higi Smart Health Station.

 

Qiana Cressman, market vice president and executive director of the American Heart Association of Tampa Bay, added, “This program is more than just about measuring blood pressure—it's a community lifeline to essential health education and resources. We are so grateful for BayCare for sponsoring our Libraries With Heart initiative, so we can combine our resources to address our shared goals of the treatment and prevention of heart disease, which remains the leading cause of death in the U.S.”

Learn more about BayCare’s community benefit efforts here.

Find out more about All4HealthFL, a four-county collaborative of local health departments and not-for-profit hospital systems in Hillsborough, Pasco, Pinellas and Polk counties, and discover resources here

 

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