WomenHeart: The National Coalition for Women with Heart Disease was founded in 1999 by three women, Nancy Loving, Jackie Markham, and Judy Mingram who had heart attacks while in their 40s and faced many obstacles, including misdiagnosis, inadequate treatment, and social isolation. These women, who lived respectively in Washington, DC, New York City, and Santa Ana, CA did not know each other at the time of their heart attacks. But they each shared a common experience about how little information or services were available for women with heart disease. To them, the issue seemed invisible within the women’s health care community.
It all began in 1998 when Jackie decided she wanted to start an organization to help women living with heart disease, which often went unrecognized, leading to serious consequences. Jackie told her friend Myrna Blyth, who had just launched More magazine, about how she felt and what she wanted to accomplish. Myrna assigned the story of women living with heart disease, which came to life though interviews with Jackie, Judy and Nancy.
As a result, Nancy, Jackie, and Judy connected and formed their own tiny support network. Their shared sense that more must be done to support women living with heart disease inspired the three women to reach out to the tens of thousands of other women who were facing the same challenges. And so, WomenHeart was created in 1999, the first – and still only – national patient-centered organization that would focus exclusively on women’s heart disease.
Under the leadership of co-founder and executive director, Nancy Loving, WomenHeart grew from a fledgling organization to one that can today highlight many accomplishments. WomenHeart’s growth is a credit to the work of its committed Board of Directors, Scientific Advisory Council, volunteers, staff and corporate partners who spend countless hours advancing awareness of women’s heart health. Now, in its 20th year, WomenHeart has successfully:
- Developed the only national network of patient support groups across the country – nearly 100 in more than 30 states.
- Trained more than 900 women heart disease survivors as community educators via the WomenHeart Science & Leadership Symposium in collaboration with Mayo Clinic.
- Hosted bi-annual Advocacy Institute conferences to train women living with heart disease to be public policy advocates and form the basis of a grassroots policy movement.
- Created the Red Bag of Courage® program placing educational information about women and heart disease directly into the hands of hundreds of thousands of women living with or at-risk for heart disease.
- Held the first National Policy & Science Summit for women’s cardiovascular health.