On Sunday, Feb. 14, women across Maryland will fill churches, synagogues and other places of worship in a sea of red hues. However, these women will not don the color in honor of Valentine’s Day. For the sixth year, Baltimore’s Saint Agnes Hospital has encouraged women to wear red in support of their annual heart disease awareness campaign, Red Dress Sundays.

According to Kelly Morin, director of marketing and physician relations at Saint Agnes, the event educates women about maintaining their hearts physically and spiritually.

“Our mission is to educate women, specifically African-American women, about the risk factors of heart disease and the behaviors and conditions that increase their chances,” said Morin.

Throughout the day, church leaders will supply worshippers with information regarding heart disease prevention and many churches will also provide free health screenings.

At its inception in 2005, Red Dress Sunday began as a healthcare initiative with sonly three participating services.

But the number of community partners has skyrocketed, with over 100 churches and 80,000 congregants expected to participate in this year’s Red Dress Sunday.

“Every year the program expands, basically its through word of mouth,” said Morin. “In fact, we have a church in Savannah, Georgia, who is participating in Red Dress Sunday this year.”

According to Morin, a church member in Baltimore shared information about the event with their relatives in Georgia, stimulating their interest to participate.

“In addition to the publicity we get and the more people hear about it, it continues to grow,” she added.

Organizers of the initiative hope churchgoers will be further enlightened on the severity of heart disease in the African-American community. The often fatal illness, which affects one in every four women, is more likely to claim the lives of African-American women than stroke, breast cancer and lung cancer combined, making it the No. 1 killer of women in America. Two-thirds of those women will not make a full recovery.

Saint Agnes hopes these numbers will decrease one day and to broaden the scope of educational services, the hospital launched sisterheart.org, a Web site providing users resources, profiles and community event listings relating to heart disease.