Inspire: Brittany Taylor – Making a community-wide impact on heart health

By Alyssa Dearborn

After joining the American Heart Association nearly one year ago as the organization’s community impact director, Brittany Taylor has been able to make a difference in the lives of Central New Yorkers while seeing the Association’s impact firsthand. 

As the community impact director, I work with both clinical providers and community-based organizations to create change within the community.” Taylor said when asked about her role, “We have certain pillars that we work on including hypertension of course, nutrition security, women’s health, tobacco and vaping, and CPR response. So we work with these–both clinical and community-based organizations–to implement change within the community, whether we’re looking at policy or seeking out a need and fulfilling that need. So it can be working with a school district to update their tobacco and vaping code of conduct so that they have a more intervention approach versus a palliative approach. But it could also be working with a local food pantry and realizing that they need refrigeration to be able to expand their reach in working with a corporate partner to find the funds to do that.”

It’s a very diverse job,” she explained, “and there’s a lot of opportunity to create sustainable change within the community.”

In her former role working at a local food alliance, she worked with community members on an individual level. At the American Heart Association, Brittany has the opportunity to see wider change. Experiencing this wider change allows Brittany to accomplish the most good for those in our community. 

Being able to see community-wide change, community-wide impact really is exciting. One thing that I found very interesting when I started my work at the American Heart Association is I think when people think ‘American Heart,’ the first thing they think of is hypertension or CPR. But we’re so much more than that. Those things are great and they’re impactful, but the work and research that’s done towards maternal health, women’s health, nutrition security, that’s what drives a lot of the community impact work that I do.” 

The issue of women’s health–particularly women’s heart health–is important to the work of Brittany and the American Heart Association because, as she explained, many women do not know the signs of heart disease. A part of her work involves both creating awareness for women’s heart health and empowering women to actively pursue healthy living. When asked what the most important thing women should know about their heart health, Brittany replied,

I would say the most important thing is to just be aware of your body, to pay attention to your body and seek help. A lot of time as women, we are the organizers of the family. We keep everyone else going and that leads us to neglect our own health. So, if women could definitely take the time and focus on their mental well-being, their physical well-being, and their spiritual well-being, that will have amazing implications on their heart health.”

When asked how she and the organization actively engage Central New Yorkers in the Association’s mission, Brittany answered,

I think there’s a lot of different ways. I think the most known is definitely through our Heart Challenge. The Heart Challenge this year will be on April 16. That is an annual walk and run where different organizations and community members come together to really campaign heart health and heart fitness. It’s an opportunity for us to share awareness. We also work with different schools and different organizations to do CPR demos so that people are able to learn how to perform standard CPR. And our other large event is our Go Red for Women Luncheon. And that’s really an opportunity to focus on women’s heart health, especially because as women, we often ignore the signs and symptoms that lead to cardiac arrest or stroke. So, it’s very important for us to celebrate women’s health, but also spread awareness so we can have more women living longer in our community.” 

Even though the American Heart Association is a national organization, it is very involved in individual communities across the country, including the communities in Central New York. Having a widespread, local impact is what makes Brittany’s work so exciting and personally fulfilling.

I’m very proud to work for the American Heart Association because although we’re a national organization, we’re a local organization,” she said. “We work really hard to improve the health of those living in the Central New York region. It’s very important to us to spread awareness. Unfortunately, you know, the Buffalo Bills player that was injured [in January], all I could think about was work and everything that I’ve learned over this last year about heart health and about CPR and about the effects of going into cardiac arrest. I don’t think I really would have known that stuff had I not worked for the American Heart Association. So one of my goals is to really make more of our information and research more widely known. There’s a lot that we do locally including providing research dollars to local scholars so that they’re able to continue the research that will impact the world.” 

When asked what the most meaningful part of her job is, she emphasized the importance of being able to see change in her community in real time.

I think what I enjoy the most about my work is being in the community and being able to see change happen in real time. Working with our clinical providers, our community-based organizations, and knowing that you had an impact on improving the systems or improving policies so that more people are taken care of is really what keeps me going.”