Illawarra women are being encouraged to have a heart-to-heart to reduce their risk of cardiovascular disease.
Illawarra Women's Health Centre health promotion manager Gabi Martinez said a new program aimed to empower and educate women.
"Heart disease is the biggest killer of Australian women but so many women are still not aware of the risks," she said.
"The new Heart to Heart program aims to change this by recruiting women to become peer educators to educate other women in the community.
"We think this will be an effective education tool as it's not a health professional or expert stating the facts, it's a member of your own community."
The peer educators will be trained to give an interactive presentation on heart disease to small community groups.
They will also be encouraged to talk to their friends and family informally about healthy lifestyle changes.
"We think the more informal talks will be really helpful to many women and will encourage them to make the small changes that will have a big impact on their risk of cardiovascular disease," Ms Martinez said.
"More than 90 per cent of women have at least one risk factor for heart disease according to the Heart Foundation. Those risk factors include high blood pressure, diabetes, smoking, depression, being overweight and not doing enough exercise.
"A lot of those risk factors are modifiable - and that's the message we want to get out there."
Ms Martinez said the centre hoped to train about 20 peer educators to start with, and there had already been a good response with 13 interested in taking part.
"We're looking for women who will be good role models for the communities in which they live.
"We especially are looking for women from low socio-economic backgrounds, as evidence shows us that the burden of disease often falls more heavily on people from these backgrounds.
"It would also be great to hear from someone who's had a cardiac episode, or has recently given up smoking or made another major lifestyle change, as they could relay their experiences."
The first training session will be at the Warilla centre on November 15 and 16 and there will be ongoing education and evaluation.
Anyone interested in becoming a peer educator should contact Ms Martinez on 4255 6809 or email@example.com.