'Heart Health for All'
Anthony Bates Foundation
Organizational Goals and Accomplishments
The Anthony Bates Foundation (ABF) was founded in 2002 by Sharon Bates, who lost her 20-year-old son Anthony to an undiagnosed heart condition. Undetected heart anomalies are the #1 killer of student-athletes and the leading cause of death on school campuses. The Bates Foundation’s mission is to establish a nationwide heart screening program for youth that is free of charge or at low cost, filling an urgent public health need. Bates Foundation screenings provide the highest quality heart analysis by using both electrocardiogram (EKG) and echocardiogram (Echo) technologies to detect electrical and structural issues in the heart. To date, the Anthony Bates Foundation and auxiliary teams have screened over 1 million people across the nation, focusing on detecting structural and electrical problems that could lead to sudden cardiac arrest or other health issues in the hearts of children.
Project Proposal Summary
The 'Heart Health for All' project enables the Anthony Bates Foundation to sponsor children’s heart screening in low-income communities across Arizona and nationwide. Without subsidies from non-profit donors and available school district funds, basic transport and screening costs for the use of electrocardiogram (EKG) and echocardiogram (Echo) technologies run up to $125 per child. Such costs prevent Arizona school districts that serve low-income communities from participating in the program. A grant from the Elliot Family Foundation would allow the Bates Foundation to lower the cost of each heart screening to between $20 and $40 per child, facilitating outreach to Arizona’s top three school districts for a broad-based register of heart health amongst children in Arizona.
Children and youth from low-income communities are typically the most vulnerable in terms of heart health. According to aggregate data gathered by the Bates Foundation in 2021, roughly 13% of the general population has a detectable heart anomaly and 2.5% of these constitute a potentially life-threatening problem. However, prevalence varies widely according to socioeconomic status, race, and ethnicity. In some low-income communities up to 25-36% of the population registered detectable heart anomalies, with 10% possibly constituting a life-threatening problem. Even when disparities in heart health are not so dramatic, low-income communities consistently and invariably register higher levels of detectable heart issues and higher percentages of these are potentially deadly. Hispanic and African American populations reported the highest percentages of heart anomalies overall, making the provision of affordable heart screening services particularly urgent for the children in these communities.
Director Sharon Bates and various public and private stakeholders supported the creation of a collaborative infrastructure to implement 'Heart Health for All.' The Anthony Bates Foundation has nurtured strong partnerships with community stakeholders and school districts to provide high quality heart screening to children. Currently the foundation sponsors screening events in the Buckeye High School, Peoria, and Mesa Unified School Districts, which together serve over 100,000 children and youth. With funding from the Elliot Family Foundation, the Bates Foundation can extend its partnership to the Tucson Unified School District, which serves over 45,000 students in primarily low-income, Hispanic communities. Due to scarce resources, cooperative agreements for screening events with the Tucson School District have often stalled. Lower screening costs will open doors to more comprehensive screening events that include at-risk, low-income, and primarily Hispanic children and youth. Volunteers can have their hearts screened without cost, attracting community organizers and interested parties to help staff screening events.
Strategic challenges remain however, particularly in low-income, primarily Hispanic communities that constitute much of the Tucson School District’s student population. Language barriers impede access to and interest in public health initiatives such as heart screenings, such that Spanish translations of advertisements and informational literature will be critical for effective outreach. The particular needs of low-income communities can also present a formidable obstacle to community participation in heart screenings.
Health evaluations may require medical attention upon detection, particularly when the heart anomalies are life-threatening. This is a disincentive for families without health insurance or little disposable income. The Bates Foundation is dedicated to overcoming these obstacles via the inclusion of health resource ‘stations’ at heart screening events. Manned by volunteers, these stations will include information about health resources for families who would like to explore their options in accessing public health services for at-risk children and youth.
Expected outcomes include working in concert with the Tuscon Unified School District to host heart-screening events in school facilities throughout the rest of 2021 and into the following year. Each heart-screening event can screen up to 200 children and at present the Bates Foundation is scheduled to deliver 18 screening events, serving 3,600 Arizona students this academic year. With participation from the Tuscon Unified School District, the number of screenings can be increased to serve a new and under-served population. Outcomes will be assessed by the number of children who receive heart screenings, which include a blood pressure reading, a 5 minute EKG, and a 5-10 minute echocardiogram.
Another critical outcome is visibility. The Bates Foundation has run a sustainable heart screening program for children and youth for almost 20 years by developing close, collaborative relationships with a diverse group of public and private community stakeholders. Increasing this presence by expanding the number of stakeholders that are able to partner with the Bates Foundation is vital to sustaining the program and garnering attention from public health institutions. A public presence helps create more comprehensive registers of children’s heart health, which increases visibility on a national level by providing valuable epidemiological information for health professionals across the country. Comprehensive heart exams are not included in general pediatric wellness check-ups, and there is no nationwide register for children’s heart health. The true incidence of heart anomalies in children and youth across the nation remains unclear and constitutes an urgent public health problem. Reliable data gathering and public access to statistical information are necessary to enact preventative measures which save lives. By expanding its operations to serve more children and youth, the Bates Foundation can create an inclusive platform for heart health that reaches a national audience of medical professionals and public health administrators.