Natalie Littlefield of the American Heart Association Lexington
Half a dozen orthopedic surgeries helped natalie appreciate the connection between health and education. with degrees in exercise science and public health, she’s excited to serve as the heart association’s community impact director.
A path with a purpose landed Natalie Littlefield at the American Heart Association in Lexington.
She has undergone half a dozen orthopedic surgeries in her lifetime. It was during rehabilitation she made the connection between health and education.
“I think a lot of pressure is put on medical providers to see a high volume of patients a day, which limits their time with them and leaves a lot of questions unanswered from a patient perspective. That’s when I realized I was passionate, through my experience, to fill that gap between the medical provider and the patient,” she said.
"I was passionate, through my experience, to fill that gap between the medical provider and the patient."
Littlefield earned her bachelor of science in exercise science from Murray State as well as a master’s degree in public health from the University of Kentucky. As the Community Impact Director at the AHA she will focus on health behaviors, disease prevention, and things everyone can do behaviorally to positively impact their health.
“It is the perfect blend of my interests in terms of disease prevention primarily through physical activity and diet,” Littlefield said.
Since Littlefield started in May, her first assignment was to go out and study her territory which includes Lexington and reaches into Eastern Kentucky. She is learning what the data says about health outcomes in the region. That information is being used to create a thorough community assessment.
“Through that assessment I was able to highlight areas that are vulnerable and really in need of outreach. That includes areas with a high concentration of minority groups and areas that are under-resourced in terms of income, distance to groceries and medical offices,” she said.
Findings like those will be used to find solutions. Littlefield is already working on education initiative about blood pressure control and improving access to healthy food which are two of the primary gaps that contribute to someone’s risk of cardiovascular disease and stroke.
Littlefield will be connecting with partners that are already doing great work in Lexington and eastern Kentucky.
“Being on the health strategy team allows me to assist in leveraging existing sponsorships in a way that will transform communities,” she said. “As the only community health strategy team member for AHA in Lexington, I am not able to go at this alone and if I do, I am not going to get very far.” It’s all about connectivity.
Littlefield is also drawing on her experience from the state health department where she was already working in heart disease and stroke prevention. A self-monitoring blood pressure project was eye-opening.
“I really liked it because you learn that not everybody knows. I think the assumption from health care professionals is everyone knows what their blood pressure numbers are, what they mean and that their behaviors can influence them positively or negatively. From that project, I learned there are a lot of gaps between what we think the lay person understands and what they actually understand about their health behaviors and how they impact their health,” she said.
Littlefield encourages everyone to ask their doctor what their numbers mean. What may be a good reading for one person may not be the best for someone else. She stresses the importance of knowing your numbers. Her outreach with the AHA will shine a light on the people who are hiding in plain sight.
As Community Impact Director, Littlefield is working to bridge the gap between community and clinics. It’s about shifting the focus to prevention instead of maintenance.
“I feel really blessed to have this position,” she said.
Curious about Natalies work?
Get the latest updates from the American Heart Association by following them on social media or by visiting them online (heart.org/Lexington)!
You can also get in touch with Natalie Littlefield at 859.317.6890 or [email protected]