Patients Benefit as Access to Cardiac Rehab Expands

Vancouver, August 9, 2011 — More patients and families have access to specialized heart care, closer to their homes, thanks to an innovative cardiac rehabilitation program that has officially opened in three Vancouver community centres.
Happy Hearts is a community-based program of monitored exercise, nutrition counselling, emotional support and lifestyle change education. It’s designed to help patients and their families recover after a heart attack and from other forms of heart disease and surgery and is now offered at the Robert Lee YMCA and the Kensington and Dunbar community centres.

The program was developed by Providence Health Care (PHC) and Vancouver Coastal Health (VCH), in partnership with Cardiac Services BC (an agency of the Provincial Health Services Authority), the YMCA of Greater Vancouver and the Vancouver Board of Parks and Recreation, with the primary goal of increasing the number of patients able to benefit from cardiac rehab.

There is growing evidence that immediate access to cardiac rehab for people with heart disease can lower their risk of recurring heart problems and death by up to 30 per cent. Yet only 15 to 30 per cent of cardiac patients are going to rehab.

Traditionally, cardiac rehab programs are located in hospital settings and require patients to return to the hospital two to three times a week. This can be demanding for many heart patients, and they often choose not to go. By offering this program in the community, the participation of patients and families who are seeking convenient, accessible and timely care closer to where they live, work and play is expected to increase.

As well, not all patients attending hospital-based programming truly need the intensity and safety of the hospital program. The new program also helps reduce health-care costs and wait times by keeping people – even the chronically ill and frail elderly – out of hospital, and helping to address problems such as crowded emergency departments and the need for more hospital beds and staff.

Since the Happy Hearts program opened at its first location in late 2009, over 100 patients and their families have undergone total lifestyle makeovers. The program is currently funded to serve up to 250 patients a year and plans are being considered to expand the program throughout B.C.

The Happy Hearts program offers patients a comprehensive, personalized plan, including:

• Highly supervised exercise training.
• Medical evaluation.
• Nutrition counselling.
• Personalized education.
• Physical and occupational therapy.
• Preventive medications.
• Psychological and pharmacological counselling.
• Referrals to other medical areas as necessary.
• Risk-factor assessment and risk-reduction services.
• Smoking cessation counselling.

Funding for this program is provided by the Provincial Health Services Authority, VCH and PHC. PHC and VCH cardiac care staff, in partnership with the YMCA of Greater Vancouver and the Vancouver Board of Parks and Recreation, operate the program.

Chronic disease, such as heart disease, diabetes, stroke and cancer, is the largest single burden on the health of British Columbians. Healthy Families BC is the Province’s health-promotion and prevention strategy. It is focused on reducing chronic diseases and promoting healthy weights through healthy eating and physical activity. The strategy will see the implementation of a variety of healthy living programs to improve health and promote wellness in every part of B.C.


Health Minister Michael de Jong –
“The cardiac rehab programs at the Robert Lee YMCA as well as Dunbar and Kensington community centres, will help keep people out of hospital by focusing on prevention, in turn reducing the strain on the health-care system.”

“We want to make the healthy choice the easy choice and I’d like to encourage all British Columbians to lead healthier lifestyles. In fact, I’ve made a personal commitment to live healthier and it’s my hope everyone follows suit.”

Dianne Doyle, Providence Health Care president and CEO –
“Providence Health Care is very proud to be able to expand the services of our well-established and recognized cardiac rehabilitation program at St. Paul’s Hospital to the community. More and more of our success comes from health authorities and community partners working together on provincial strategies that focus on promotion of healthy living and prevention, while providing high-quality care for all.”

Dr. David Ostrow, Vancouver Coastal Health president and CEO –
“Vancouver Coastal Health already has the healthiest citizens in Canada. Through initiatives like Happy Hearts, developed as part of a new regional cardiac program, we and our partners in the ministry, in health care and in the community, can build on our successes and support our populations as they reach even higher levels of wellness. Programs such as these, with their emphasis on health promotion and prevention, are the key to the long-term sustainability of our health-care system.”

Dr. Andrew Ignaszewski, medical director, Providence Health Care’s Healthy Heart program –
“Heart disease remains the leading cause of death in British Columbia, Canada, and most countries throughout the world, yet much of this is preventable. With our aging population, it is essential to focus on prevention to improve quality of life for patients and reduce the impact on the health-care system.”

“We often see the results of unmanaged heart disease in our operating rooms when we perform life-saving heart surgery on patients who have suffered major heart attacks. By helping people change their lifestyle through cardiac rehabilitation, it's possible to help people with heart disease significantly reduce their risk of recurring heart problems and death.”
Alex Holm, Happy Hearts program patient –
“This new community cardiac rehab program provided me with easy access to state-of-the-art exercise equipment and lifestyle education in a safe environment monitored by health-care professionals who gave me the tools to take responsibility for my own recovery and health.”
Stephen Butz, YMCA of Greater Vancouver president and CEO –
“At the YMCA, we believe everyone should have the chance to live their best life. This is why we have provided supportive, community-based facilities and programs to encourage healthy living in this community for more than 125 years. This exciting new partnership creates a larger network of professionals who care and will support individuals to develop and sustain healthy habits in their own communities.”
Malcolm Bromley, Vancouver Board of Parks and Recreation general manager –
“The Happy Hearts program is a great example of community organizations and government coming together to find a solution for an important issue. The Park Board is pleased to operate this program in partnership with the YMCA of Greater Vancouver to bring cardiac rehabilitation recreation to patients and their families right at our community centres. Thanks to the Ministry of Health, Vancouver Coastal Health and Providence Health Care for funding this innovative approach to active, healthy living.”
Quick Facts:
• Heart disease is the biggest killer of Canadians – an illness that 74,000 die from each year.
• The Heart and Stroke Foundation estimates that eight out of 10 Canadians have at least one risk factor for heart disease.
• The Happy Hearts program is appropriate for people with established heart disease or for those with two or more risk factors for heart disease such as diabetes, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, obesity, smoking, premature family history of heart disease, or chronic kidney disease.
• If you, or someone you know, has experienced a heart event or has multiple risk factors, such as diabetes, high blood pressure or high cholesterol, speak to your doctor about a referral to this new program.
Learn More:

For more information on the Happy Hearts program including how to join the program, please visit

For more information on Healthy Families BC, visit

Media Contacts:

Ministry of Health communications
250 952-1887 (media line)

Justin Karasick
Director Communications and Public Affairs
Providence Health Care
604 806-8460 (office)
604 992-2503 (cell)

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