Heart-Healthy Firefighter E-news: December 14, 2004

Welcome to the NVFC Heart-Healthy Firefighter E-News. The NVFC Heart-Healthy Firefighter Program was designed to healp firefighters become more heart-healthy and lower the incidence of heart attack related deaths in the fire service. We hope that you enjoy this newsletter and that it benefits not only you, but others in your fire department, family and community.

In this issue:
  1. The Medical Reserve Corps: Volunteers Working to make their Community Healthier
  2. Fireman’s Fund Contributes $175,000 to National Volunteer Fire Council’s Heart-Healthy Firefighter Program
  3. NVFC Screens 1,000 Firefighters at Fire Rescue International
  4. About the Heart-Healthy Firefighter Program
  5. Heart-Healthy Tip of the Day

The Medical Reserve Corps: Volunteers Working to Make their Community Healthier

The strain that day-to-day activities put on local public health and emergency response systems is increased when a disaster occurs. The recent hurricanes that hit the southeastern United States left the area badly battered and local emergency response personnel overextended. Several national organizations were even depleting their volunteer lists. Likewise, the shortage of Influenza vaccine has also stressed the system. These events have highlighted the need to have a cadre of volunteers ready and available who can assist local authorities with regularly occurring health initiatives and also in meeting health needs during responses to emergencies .

The Medical Reserve Corps (MRC) Program, launched in July 2002 and housed in the Office of the U.S. Surgeon General, focuses on strengthening local public health capabilities and preparing communities for emergencies. MRC units give medical and public health volunteers an organized approach to offer their professional skills in support of their local communities, while also expanding local partnership networks through a commitment to community-wide coordination.

MRC volunteers are part of a network that encourages and values broad-based community coordination and ongoing skills development. To form a MRC unit, interested community leaders are encouraged to engage, and obtain buy-in from, a host of local agencies and groups in their community. Partner organizations may include health departments, boards of health, emergency management agencies, fire departments, hospitals, schools, private businesses and others. Along with their partners, each unit is encouraged to review the health needs of their local community and develop MRC programs that address those needs. Some units are involved solely in either emergency preparedness or public health activities; others have a mixture of both. No matter what the program’s mission, MRC units are working within their communities to make them healthier, stronger, and more prepared.

MRC volunteers can come from various backgrounds - they do not necessarily have to be medical or public health professionals. Physicians, nurses, pharmacists, veterinarians and other health professionals are encouraged to join, but non-medical workers - interpreters, chaplains, legal advisors, and others – can also answer the President’s “call to service” by volunteering within their communities. MRC programs throughout the country have recognized the need for a wide-variety of volunteers to tackle the multitude of health challenges that communities face.

There are currently 231 MRC units in 46 states, the District of Columbia and the US Virgin Islands; and over 30,000 volunteers. Over the past several months, the MRC National Program Office has been working with public health, emergency management, and medical leaders across the nation to encourage the formation of MRC units in local communities. The Office strives to facilitate the establishment and implementation of MRC units nationwide, and it functions as a clearinghouse for community information and best practices. Its role is to help communities achieve their local visions for public health and emergency preparedness and response.

MRC units can participate in a variety of local public health activities, such as diabetes screening, smoking cessation, and childhood immunization clinics, and also help the community to prepare for emergencies. Over 30 MRCs from across the country responded in some way to the needs of local communities after the recent Hurricanes. MRC members supplemented local hospitals facing critical personnel shortages, supported Red Cross shelters and local special needs shelters, manned first aid stations, and served in FEMA customer relations positions. They also supported local evacuation efforts, provided disaster mental health services, and helped with logistics for service centers to assist local flood victims.

We believe it is vital for local health and emergency response professionals to be involved in the establishment of MRC units and sustain them so they continue to meet the community’s health needs.

The Medical Reserve Corps will continue to grow as more communities discover this resource to help improve their public health and emergency response capacity. Along with this growth, we would like to see the MRC units adopt more broad-based public health initiatives, specifically those that are aligned with the public health priorities of the U.S. Surgeon General - increasing disease prevention efforts, enhancing emergency preparedness, eliminating health disparities and improving health literacy.

For more information on the MRC program, visit www.medicalreservecorps.gov , e-mail This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it or call (301) 443-4951.

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Fireman’s Fund Contributes $175,000 to National Volunteer Fire Council’s Heart-Healthy Firefighter Program

Washington, D.C., November XX, 2004 – The National Volunteer Fire Council (NVFC) has announced that it has received a major donation from the Fireman’s Fund Insurance Company in support of the NVFC’s Heart-Healthy Firefighter program. The $175,000 donation was formally presented at the NVFC’s recent board meeting held in Asheville, North Carolina on October 16, 2004.

Accepting the donation on behalf of the National Volunteer Fire Council was Chairman Philip C. Stittleburg. “We’re delighted to receive such a significant contribution in support of our efforts to educate firefighters about the risks of heart disease,” Stittleburg said. “The size of the Fireman’s Fund donation reflects not only their own commitment to firefighter health, but also the faith they’ve placed in the importance and value of our program. The number of firefighters we lose to heart attacks each year in the line of duty is unacceptable. We’re confident our program is making a positive impact,” he emphasized.

The $175,000 contribution from the Fireman’s Fund will be used to support various activities of the NVFC’s Heart-Healthy Firefighter program. The program has an aggressive goal of reducing heart-related on-duty firefighter deaths by 25% by the year 2005. Now in its second year, the program educates firefighters and the communities they serve about the risks of heart attacks and other heart-related dangers inherent in firefighting.

During the first year of the program, a Heart-Healthy Firefighter Kit was developed. This kit has provided thousands of firefighters across the United States with valuable information on fighting cholesterol and heart disease, as well as promoting better nutrition and overall physical fitness. The Heart-Healthy Firefighter Kit is available by visiting www.healthy-firefighter.org. The web site also offers other heart-healthy tools, including a medical history form that firefighters can print out and provide to their doctor.

Heather Schafer, the NVFC’s executive director, expressed satisfaction with the effectiveness of the Heart-Healthy Firefighter program to date. “We’ve been quite successful in educating firefighters about cardiac-related health issues. Not only have we put information into the hands of over 5,000 firefighters, we’ve also provided free cholesterol screenings for more than 4,000 people at several of the major fire service conferences this past year. But obviously, much work remains to be done, which makes us so grateful for the support of the Fireman’s Fund.”

The $175,000 donation from Fireman’s Fund Insurance was presented to NVFC by Gil Roeder, National Director of Communications. According to Roeder, the funds were contributed under the company’s Heritage Program. Founded in 1863, Fireman’s Fund Insurance has participated actively over the years in local, regional and national initiatives to improve the health of firefighters. The mission of the Heritage Program is to support local firefighters in building safer communities. Previous donations have gone toward the purchase of equipment and fire prevention tools, as well as training for local fire departments and community education.

The National Volunteer Fire Council is a not-for-profit membership organization representing the interests of volunteer fire, EMS and rescue services. Organized in 1976, its membership includes state-level organizations that represent volunteer firefighters and EMS personnel in 49 states, along with individual firefighters, fire departments and corporate members.

The NVFC is the volunteer fire service’s representative in the national policy arena, keeping its members informed of current and forthcoming legislation. The NVFC also serves on the Board of Visitors of the National Fire Academy, the Congressional Fire Services Institute’s National Advisory Committee, the National Fallen Firefighters Foundation, the Federal of World Volunteer Firefighters Association, as well as various sub-committees of the National Fire Protection Association.

For more information on the National Volunteer Fire Council and its activities, including the Heart-Healthy Firefighter Program, contact Maggie Wilson, Director of Health & Safety, at 202-887-5700 or This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .

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NVFC Screens 1,000 Firefighters at Fire Rescue International

New Orleans, LA – The National Volunteer Fire Council (NVFC) performed cholesterol screening on firefighters as part of its Heart-Healthy Firefighter Program at Fire Rescue International in New Orleans, LA on August 13-14. Just over 1,000 individuals had their cholesterol checked, the most ever for a two-day event.

“The response at this show and all other shows we have attended this year has been overwhelming,” said NVFC Chairman Philip C. Stittleburg. “There has been a lot of enthusiasm surrounding the program and we believe we are starting to increase awareness of the serious health risks facing firefighters.”

One of the greatest risk factors for heart disease is cholesterol. Some others include heredity, smoking, nutrition and physical fitness. In year one of the program we have focused on informing firefighters of the benefit of knowing your cholesterol levels as a factor in preventing heart disease. The screening takes only about 7 minutes to complete. Participants fill out a consent form, have a small amount of blood drawn from their finger and then receive their confidential results in 4-5 minutes. A counselor is on hand to discuss the results with each participant, confidentially.

Ideal results for cholesterol include a total cholesterol score of under 200. In addition, individuals want their HDL, or “good” cholesterol score, above 40. The recommended ratio of total cholesterol to good cholesterol should be less than 5 for men and less then 4.5 for women.

Since the launch of the program in January 2004, the NVFC and the Heart-Healthy Firefighter Program have performed cholesterol testing on over 4,000 people. The program was originally funded by a 2002 Assistance to Firefighters grant.

The NVFC provides free cholesterol screening, as well as valuable information about how to lower cholesterol, eat more nutritious, become more physically active, and live a healthier lifestyle. Also, in Phase Two of the program, which was just recently approved for funding, the NVFC plans to perform blood pressure and body composition screenings at major trade shows. In addition, Phase Two of the program will more profoundly emphasize physical fitness in the fire service. The NVFC will be launching its Heart-Healthy Firefighter Challenge where individuals will be able to track their daily physical activity online and receive recognition for their efforts.

“The efforts of the National Volunteer Fire Council to reduce firefighter deaths address on cause of firefighter fatalities throughout the volunteer fire service," said U.S. Fire Administrator R. David Paulison, after having his own cholesterol levels screened at the NVFC booth. "I hope that all firefighters will join me in having their cholesterol checked and make a concerted effort to help this nation reduce the unacceptable number of line of duty deaths.”

“The NVFC is looking forward to launching Phase Two of the program and continuing to educate firefighters across the country,” added Stittleburg. “The amount of firefighters we lose in the line-of-duty each year to heart attacks in unacceptable and the NVFC is confident this program can make a real impact.”

The program has been guided by the expertise of the NVFC Heart-Healthy Work Group and Medical Advisory Panel who have played key roles in developing the program and have taken a strong interest in promoting firefighter health. Key members of the Work Group include the United States Fire Administration, the American Heart Association, the American Dietetics Association and the National Heart, and the Lung and Blood Institute.

For more information on the Heart-Healthy Firefighter program visit: www.healthy-firefighter.org or send an email to Maggie Wilson, NVFC Director of Health and Safety at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .

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About the Heart-Healthy Firefighter Program

America’s firefighters are the first responders to man made and natural disaster to rescue lives and property. But is it America’s firefighters who are at risk. Each year, more than half of all firefighter deaths are attributed to heart attack, which is the leading cause of firefighter fatalities. The National Volunteer Fire Council (NVFC) has developed a national campaign called “The Heart-Healthy Firefighter Program” to reduce the number of firefighter deaths due to heart attacks.

Through a partnership with the American Heart Association, the American Dietetics Association, the National Heart-Lung and Blood Institute and the U.S. Fire Administration (USFA), the NVFC has launched a heart attack prevention program targeted at America’s fire service. While the NVFC promotes the interests of the volunteer fire service, the issue of firefighter fatalities due to heart attacks affects the entire fire service. That is why we specifically designed this program to impact all firefighters whether they are paid or volunteer.

Since 1977, the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) has documented more that 2,700 firefighter fatalities in the United State that resulted from injuries or illnesses while the victims were on-duty.

In 2003, 102 on-duty firefighters died in the line-of-duty. Stress and overexertion, usually resulting in heart attacks, continued to be the leading cause of fatal injury, as it has been in almost all of the years of the study. Of the 47 stress-related deaths all resulted from heart attacks. Over 50% of the heart related deaths were volunteers.

The heart attack prevention program also coincides with USFA’s 5-Year Operational Objectives, which is to reduce the loss of life from fire by 15%. USFA is the federal agency responsible for firefighter issues.

  • By reducing by 25% the loss of life of the age group 14 years old and below, and

  • By reducing by 25% the loss of life of the age group 65 years old and above, and

  • By reducing by 25% the loss of life of firefighters.

The need is clear, the project meets with USFA’s objectives and solid partnerships have been formed to increase awareness of this serious health problem within the fire service. The program is also the beginning of what we hope will be a continued program for many years to come.

In Phase I of the program we used the following tools to communicate this message:

Educational Materials

  • NVFC developed, in partnership with the American Heart Association and others, a Heart-Healthy Firefighter Kit which has been distributed at four national fire service trade shows and made available through an exclusive website described below.

  • The Kit includes helpful tips on proper nutrition, fitness, and information on heart disease in general in addition to other materials.


  • NVFC developed a stand-alone website, www.healthy-firefighter.org, with specific information related to heart attack prevention including in depth resources and recommendations.

  • The Kit described above is available on the site along with other educational materials.

Trade Shows

  • NVFC attended Fire Rescue East in Jacksonville, FL, FDIC in Indianapolis, IN, Fire Expo in Harrisburg, PA, and Fire Rescue International in New Orleans, LA with a booth. NVFC had Cholestech machines in the booth along with trained professionals who tested the cholesterol levels of firefighters. With this simple test, firefighters learned if they were at risk for a heart attack. Each participant received a Kit which provided them with heart-healthy advice from diet to exercise.

In total, over 4,000 firefighters have had their cholesterol tested. The overwhelming response to the program was positive. Many individuals expressed a desire to see more of this at other trade shows.

Heart Healthy Work Group

  • The NVFC coordinated a Heart-Healthy Work Group who provided guidance in the areas of proper nutrition, physical fitness and cardiology. The Panel includes representatives from the AHA, USFA, the American Dietetics Association, and NHLBI.

In Phase II of the program, NVFC plans to increase the number of trade shows from three (3) to five (5). This will bring more exposure to the program and allow for more firefighters to have their cholesterol checked. Additionally, attending more shows will geographically spread us out over a larger area, giving us access to more firefighters.

Additionally, in Phase II we plan to work closely with our Work Group to assist us in planning the Fired Up For Fitness Challenge. This Challenge will be launched online shortly after the new year. Firefighters can participate in this online program to help lose weight, become more physically active and change their eating habits to become healthier overall. Awards will be given to those who complete the challenge.

Another new aspect of the program will be a more concentrated focus on outreach. NVFC plans to promote the program in carious fire service trade publications as well as our own newsletter, The Dispatch. NVFC will launch an E-News email newsletter regarding the program. To sign up, email Maggie Wilson at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it . We also plan to distribute kits to various state association conferences in order to publicize the program nationwide.

To view the letter to the nation's governors, go to: http://www.fema.gov/nims/

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NVFC Heart-Healthy Tip of the Day
Courtesy of Yahoo! Health

Fat = Cholesterol

Cholesterol in your food is not the biggest culprit for raising your blood cholesterol level. Saturated fat (red meat and whole dairy) and trans fats (fast foods and processed foods) are the primary contributors to a high cholesterol reading.

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