Survivors of heart disease and stroke, including children living with congenital heart conditions, were among the thousands of walkers taking part in the annual Puget Sound Heart and Stroke Walk, Saturday, October 26 at Seattle Center.
The walk is the largest community event for the local American Heart Association (AHA) with the goal of raising awareness about heart disease and stroke, the No. 1 and No. 4 leading causes of death in the United States. Organizers hoped to raise $1.75 million to help fund community programs and research grants that help advance cardiovascular disease prevention and treatment. At press time, over $1.5 million had been reported. The event is on pace to meet or exceed its annual goal.
The chairman of the event, H.R. Brereton (Gubby) Barlow, is president and chief executive officer of Premera Blue Cross having joined the company in 1997 as COO. A native of South Africa, Barlow’s career includes chief financial officer roles with Health Net, a major subsidiary of Health Systems International, a $3.1 billion HMO with 2 million members in six western states, and AHI Healthcare Systems Inc., a primary and specialty care provider network. Prior to these, Barlow was a partner at Deloitte Touche. Barlow also serves on several boards including: Emeritus Corporation; National Institute for Health Care Management; University of Washington Business School; Washington Healthcare Forum; Blue Cross Blue Shield Association and Premera Blue Cross.
We got “Gubby’s” first hand take on the this year’s very special event.
How are you involved with Heart and Stroke Walk and why did you choose to get involved?
Barlow: I’m chairing this year’s Puget Sound Heart and Stroke Walk. Premera has been a strong supporter of the Walk in the past, but leading this effort is an important part of giving back to the community and supporting efforts to address the single largest killer of all Americans: cardiovascular disease.
You are involved with the walk’s Executive Leadership Challenge. From a business perspective, why does it make sense for executives to get involved and what are the benefits to their companies?
Barlow: We believe it’s important for businesses to give back and contribute to the communities in which we work and serve. Premera is especially interested in supporting healthier communities through a variety of programs across our business. Charitable campaigns like the Heart Walk are simply another way to support the health of people in our communities.
As a company executive, how are you getting your employees involved in walk and American Heart Association’s cause?
Barlow: We have a very active Premera campaign this year, with team captains driving many fundraising events and related activity on our campus and with friends and family. They really deserve much of the credit for the success of Premera’s campaign as they’ve been driving it forward on a daily basis.
What have your efforts generated, as far as results?
Barlow: We’re thrilled to have smashed Premera’s corporate goal of $50,000 raised and 300 walkers, both of which are substantially higher than last year. We’re now over $75,000 raised and have nearly 500 walkers registered. We’re looking forward to a great event on the 26th.
Have you employed the use of technology to help with your involvement in the Heart Walk and the AHA in general? Has it helped with your goals related to the Heart Walk and company wellness?
Barlow: The Heart Association’s website for the Walk has been a critical factor in our success, allowing for easy access to sign-up and support different teams while also tracking our results to date. We’ve used those results along the way to help build enthusiasm and awareness as our fundraising efforts have unfolded.
Barlow: The work of so many people to make this a success. The local staff of the American Heart Association does amazing work and my team at Premera and employees at other leading companies have done some incredible work to make this campaign a success.
Anything in particular you’d like to say to companies that have not yet become involved with the Heart and Stroke Walk?
Barlow: It’s a great event and a great cause. If you’re not already participating, you should definitely give it a try.
Puget Sound companies interested in sponsoring or promoting the annual event can show their support by contacting the Heart Association of Puget Sound as well as downloading and displaying Heart Walk badges and widgets online. [24×7]