Mission of American Heart Association Personal for Blue Cross Executives  

Julie Bitely

| 3 min read

Girl holding a red knitted heart
Nearly 20 years ago, Tricia Keith discovered her grandmother after she’d suffered a stroke. Her sudden death is a memory that sticks. “That was a sad and scary thing,” Keith said. Ten years ago, heart disease visited the family again, this time bringing a severe stroke to Keith’s mother, by all accounts a strong and healthy woman. Thankfully, Keith’s mom fully recovered from losing movement in her left side and overcame slurred speech. She said doctors were never able to pinpoint exactly what caused the stroke. “Research can hopefully eventually help us to understand and prevent these types of things from happening,” Keith said.

‘A relentless force for a world of healthier, longer lives’ 

Tricia Keith
Tricia Keith
Research to understand heart disease and stroke is at the core of the American Heart Association’s mission. Every February, the organization works to raise awareness of cardiovascular disease in women through its Go Red for Women Movement. The theme of this year’s campaign is “Live Fierce” – a rallying cry for every woman to take a stand, prioritize their health and drive change. For many years, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan has been a proud supporter of Go Red and 2021 is no exception. Keith, executive vice president, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan and president, Emerging Markets, is serving as co-chair for the 2021 campaign in southeast Michigan, while Kellie Norton, director, West Michigan Upper Peninsula Administration, is co-chairing the Grand Rapids Go Red luncheon. Bridget Hurd, vice president, Inclusion and Diversity, and Sharon Gipson, vice president, Enterprise Audit, also serve on the executive leadership team in southeast Michigan. “The mission of AHA is to be a relentless force for a world of healthier, longer lives,” Keith said. “AHA does research and works on both heart disease and stroke. This focus really resonated with me, as someone who is very committed to personal responsibility in health and wellness.” 
Kellie Norton
Kellie Norton
Norton, who has served on the Grand Rapids’ AHA board of directors since 2018 and the executive leadership team since 2015, is also motivated to support the AHA’s mission in part due to a family history of heart disease. Her grandmother suffered a heart attack in her 60s, her grandfather died from heart failure and her sister has cardio myopathy, living with a pacemaker. “The more research that is done, the more that is linked to heart health, stroke, brain, diabetes, good nutrition and overall health,” she said.

Giving with heart during a pandemic 

This year’s Go Red luncheons will be virtual events due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Being heart-healthy is even more important as the pandemic continues because COVID-19 can be especially serious for those with an underlying heart issue. Both Keith and Norton are optimistic that the virtual formats might be able to reach more people and that they’ll be effective fundraising opportunities for AHA chapters in the state. For those tuning in, expect to hear stories from survivors, advice from health experts and to learn more about the AHA and the great work the organization does for heart health in Michigan and across the country. Find out how you can get involved this February:
 How do you maintain focus on heart health? Share your best healthy eating, exercise and stress reduction tips with us in the comments. Related:
Photo credit: Getty Images
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