American Heart Association CycleNation – Rush Heart Center for Women Team Campaign Summary

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  • June 24, 2020

Shiva Barforoshi, Neelum T. Aggarwal, MD, Annabelle S. Volgman, MD

American Heart Association Cycle Nation Overview and Virtual Platform

This year was the first ever Virtual CycleNation Rally. The COVID-19 pandemic introduced new obstacles for Chicago CycleNation and despite these challenges, the American Heart Association (AHA) took the lead in creating a sense of community that was stronger than ever. On April 6th, 2020, the AHA announced that the CycleNation Rally would move to a virtual platform for the first time. Starting May 1st, participants were encouraged to join the CycleNation Chicago movement and commit to staying healthy-at-home with the home fitness challenge of 150 minutes of physical activity a week (30 minutes a day, 5 days a week).

CycleNation Team webpage

The AHA CycleNation national event ran until May 27th, 2020 with the ultimate goal of completing 100,000 total minutes of physical activity and raising $100,000. The final event showcased a forty-five minute program video with testimonials from five participants as well as a 30-minute workout led by Austin Head, local fitness influencer. Overall, 156,000 minutes were completed by all participants and $50,000 was raised.

CycleNation Mission and the Cardiovascular Implications of COVID-19

The AHA recommends that adults have “150 minutes of moderate-to-vigorous aerobic activities like cycling, running, walking and strength training to lower the risk of weight gain, chronic disease, dementia, and depression.” With the onset of COVID-19, prevention is more important now than ever in limiting the spread of COVID-19. With stay-at-home orders in place for quarantine lockdown, people have found themselves unable to go to their gym and limited their clinic or emergency department visits even though they might have an underlying chronic disease or medical emergency.

Facebook campaign

With over 40% or patients hospitalized with COVID-19 having cardiovascular or cerebrovascular disease (stroke), it is important to direct attention to this medically vulnerable population at higher risk of COVID-19. Those at the highest risk include the elderly over 65 years old with coronary heart disease or hypertension, stroke survivors, people with serious chronic kidney or lung conditions, people over 60 years old, diabetics, pregnant women and young children, and those who are immunocompromised.

Rush Heart Center for Women Campaign

Instagram story highlights

This year Shiva Barforoshi, rising fourth year medical student at Chicago Medical School (CMS) at Rosalind Franklin University of Medicine and Science, and Dr. Neelum Aggarwal, CMS Alum ‘92 and Research Director for the Rush Heart Center for Women, partnered up as Co-Captains for the Rush Heart Center for Women CycleNation Team and collectively raised over $1,700. The goal of their campaign was not only to encourage home fitness and raise money for the CycleNation campaign, but also to demonstrate an example of a successful alumni-student mentorship for a good cause.

They created a team campaign page on the AHA website as well as individual campaign pages. The web platform was a great official page designed to professionally showcase the campaign and track members joining their team and donating to their campaign. Through the web platform, both captains were also able to create Facebook fundraising campaigns titled “Stop the Cycle of Stroke and Heart Disease” linked to the team campaign page.

Since the campaign webpage had a $25 donation minimum, the Facebook page not only allowed the campaign to reach a wider audience through social media, but also had no minimum on donation amount. Thus, the Facebook page allowed for continuous engagement of one’s social network through updates/posts about the campaign.

Both the campaign webpage and Facebook page had descriptions of the purpose and goals of the campaign as well as a donation tracker to display the amount raised out of the total fundraising goal, thereby motivating both the fundraisers and donors.

Shiva also utilized Instagram as an engagement platform. She posted creative Instagram stories to promote the campaign as well as linked the Facebook campaign page in her instagram biography handle, which resulted in a further influx of donations.

Both Co-Captains also personally reached out to friends, family, colleagues, and mentors with individualized messages for support. For instance, Shiva reached out to the CMS Dean, alumni office, and other faculty members for support and was met with great support as well as donations. Furthermore, Dr. Aggarwal’s connections through the Rush Heart Center for Women (RHCW) also engaged clinicians at large university medical centers to participate and donate. The RHCW has had a long history of being involved in multiple AHA sponsored events, and programs, beginning with the Go Red program, the Go Red Goes STEM program, and now CycleNation. Dr. Volgman, the RHCW Medical Director and Founder, envisioned a Center that would provide evidence-based comprehensive care to prevent and treat women with cardiovascular disease.

Success and Takeaways

Virtual CycleNation Day (May 27th, 2020)

The success of the campaign is attributed to its multifaceted approach and various platforms used to promote the campaign, all of which were well integrated with one another. The campaign showcases the strength in alumni-student mentorship and partnership in leading together and presenting as a team. Taking the time to design a campaign page with a strong mission draws in more participants motivated by your cause and sets the foundation for active engagement. Furthermore, engaging frequently with personal contacts, social media platforms, as well as professional networks is an essential method for diversifying your span of reach. Most importantly, when you feel connected to your campaign’s mission, your passion will speak for itself.

The RHCW leadership believes that the combination of medical education, active mentorship, and sponsorship of young women in the fields of Cardiology, Neurology, and Preventive Medicine in actionable community engagement activities exemplifies a 360 degree approach to the development of the next generation of female physician leaders.

Featured in CycleNation video

Neelum Aggarwal

Dr. Aggarwal works with many community based and national organizations promoting ways to ensure that positive lifestyle changes lead to better cognitive and physical health across the aging continuum. She is a cognitive neurologist, with particular interest in dementia and Alzheimer's disease, and conducts original research in a variety of large scale community based studies in Chicago. She serves as the senior examining neurologist for the community based minority studies at the RADC, a position that she has held for over 15 years. She also represents RUSH, as the Steering Committee member for the Alzheimer's Disease Cooperative Study Group, a group that develops clinical trials to prevent and slow down the progression of Alzheimer's disease and is the Clinical Core Co-Leader of the RUSH Alzheimer's Disease Center's federally funded Clinical Core. She is the Chief Diversity Officer for the American Medical Women's Association ( AMWA), and has leadership roles in multiple organizations including, the West Side Institute for Science and Education at the Jesse Brown VA, F.I.T. City Chicago, Arogya World, and Women Against Alzheimer's Disease.

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