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Twin sisters are channeling heartache into potentially life-saving community outreach

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Posted at 5:12 PM, Nov 09, 2021
and last updated 2021-11-09 19:19:44-05

CLEVELAND, Ohio — They say the way to a person's heart is through their stomach, and that's exactly what doctors Jennifer and Jessica Macklin hope for when their "Burgers and Blood Pressure" events pop-up around town.

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"People will always show up for a party," said Dr. Jennifer Macklin.

The twin sisters offer heart-healthy burgers: veggie, turkey or chicken, in exchange for a person's glucose and blood pressure readings.

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"We realize that younger and younger people are being affected by this, it's no longer our grandparents' diseases,” said Dr. Jessica Macklin.

Their mission to help the community was born out of heartache.

"Every 36 seconds, somebody passes away from a cardiovascular event," said Jessica.

Jessica and Jennifer lost two grandparents to heart and chronic diseases.

"This is exactly what we need to be doing. This is where our passion is, and I feel like we had to go through that hurtful time to make a difference for everyone else,” said Jessica.

Since launching their non-profit "Hands on Health" at the height of the pandemic, the sisters, along with 38 volunteers made up of physicians, pharmacists, and nurses, have screened more than 800 people, including Dominique Emory.

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"I didn't even realize my blood pressure was a little high until this event," said Emory.

Among the 100 patients who had above-average readings, a dozen people were encouraged to see their medical provider.

"Of those 12 people, 6 people got a breast cancer screening and colonoscopy screening, so it kind of went beyond the initial screenings,” said Jessica.

One patient's levels were so high, he was on the verge of having a stroke.

"He said the burger literally saved his life, so it’s super rewarding," said Jennifer.

Among those reaping the benefits was Rosemary Brown.

Brown said she is grateful that she and her neighbors have the chance to know what's going on with their bodies.

She had a message for Jessica and Jennifer.

"Keep doing what you guys are doing. Continue to be that advocate, that voice that helps so many in the community," said Brown.

The sisters are now setting their sights on curbing childhood obesity with their health science lab, which shows students easy and fun alternatives to sugary snacks.

“It makes it like a whole family affair, so the students are learning how to take care of themselves, the parents are learning," said Jennifer.

The new outreach started in Cleveland Heights schools, the same district where Jessica and Jennifer got introduced to medicine through the high school's pharmacy technician program.

"Our goal was to always come back and show students the same thing that anything is possible,” said Jessica.

This story is part of A Better Land, an ongoing series that investigates Northeast Ohio's deep-seated systemic problems. Additionally, it puts a spotlight on the community heroes fighting for positive change in Cleveland and throughout the region. If you have an idea for A Better Land story, tell us here.