By Barbara Sofer

Miriam Dissen, principal of the very religious Bais Yaakov school in Jerusalem, was delighted to welcome Hadassah’s Linda Joy Pollin Cardiovascular Wellness Center’s project in her school of 3000 teens and young women. “The lectures and guidance have had a lasting change on the girls’ teachers’ habits,” said Dissen. “They still walk the stairs and wear their pedometers, and try to eat healthier.”  Now they have learned to incorporate health promotion concepts into their classes, and all the girls are benefiting.

Dissen was among the principals of Jewish and Arab schools who came to Hadassah Ein Kerem to celebrate the official opening of the Pollin Center, in the presence of National President Marcie Natan, Minister of Health Yakov Litzman, Minister for Social Equality
Gila Gamliel, MK Aida Touma-Sliman, who is the head of the Knesset Committee for the Promotion of Women and Gender Equality, Hadassah Prof. Naama Constantini, Head of the Council for Women’s Health and other Knesset members and hospital representatives.

Nearly all of Dissen’s students will marry and begin families within the next few years, meeting their future husbands through
matchmakers. If they don’t acquire good habits now, the odds are poor that they will start exercising and eating well while they
are challenged by the need to balance motherhood and earning a living.Their teachers need to be good role models, too.

Jerusalem women, particularly those in the extreme Jewish religious communities and women in the Arab sectors, need to start early to acquire healthy heart habits, says Dr. Danna Zfat, who heads the Pollin Center. At least one in three Jerusalem Arab women is overweight and has diabetes,according to her colleague Prof. Gil Leibowitz, head of Hadassah’s Diabetes Unit.

Says Dr. Zfat: “We believe that the school environment is the effective and proper place to start — not only to inculcate
eating and exercise habits, but to impact their mothers and the whole extended family. These young women are still living at home,
and some are involved in preparing the family food. Very soon, these young women will be heading off to start their own families.
We want them to focus on their own health and to serve as positive role models in their families. We have data suggesting that even a modest change has impact over a lifetime.”

The Linda Joy Pollin Cardiovascular Wellness Center at Hadassah acts to promote cardiovascular health in women at every societal level from the personal to the national. The Center includes a multi-disciplinary cardiovascular clinic for women with an
emphasis on lifestyle change, an internet site and social media center including Facebook, Instagram and Twitter, and multiple
culturally-appropriate community intervention programs on a large scale. Target populations for community interventions
include Arab women in East Jerusalem, extreme Orthodox women, the disabled community (men and women), disadvantaged women. One major target population is hospital employees. There is a very successful pedometer program which has increased steps by over 25% in participants, and extended workshops for healthy nutrition, stress reduction and smoking cessation.

“Heart disease and stroke are the leading causes of death and disability in women. There is an imperative for gender-specific
prevention and treatment,” said Dr. Zfat.