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HHS Launches Heart Disease Prevention Campaign

Cheryl Clark, September 14, 2011

Federal health officials on Tuesday announced an ambitious plan to refocus health priorities in an effort to prevent one million heart attacks and strokes within five years.  They plan to achieve the goal through partnership with organized medicine, health plans, pharmacists and a large drug store chain.

Called "Million Hearts," the effort seeks to create what Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services administrator Donald Berwick, MD, called a new "alignment" between providers and others to get people to lose weight, stop smoking, control blood pressure, reduce cholesterol, and manage diabetes.

"There's hardly an American today who won't, without doubt, know somebody – a loved one, a friend, maybe even yourself – who will gain from this call to arms," Berwick said during a news briefing. "(This is) someone who will not have a heart attack or disabling stroke or another form of cardiovascular disability and therefore will live longer and a fuller and more joyous life" because of this campaign.

Added Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius: "With two million heart attacks and strokes a year, 800,000 deaths, just about all of us have been touched by someone with heart disease, heart attack, or stroke." But the cost of treatment is "a huge drain on our economy. Cardiovascular disease costs our country $444 billion every year in medical costs and lost productivity," or one of every six healthcare dollars.

"Yet we know that most heart attacks and strokes can be prevented with simple, low-cost care that's available today, but that sad truth is too any people who need that care don't get it."

Thomas Frieden, MD, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, also commented during the campaign rollout. "This will not cost a lot of new money but it will greatly increase our focus on getting value for our investments," he said.  "We aim to reduce the number of people who need treatment and improve the quality of treatment for those who do."

The administration is focusing on what it calls the ABCs of heart disease and stroke:
• A – To make sure that everyone who is at high risk for cardiovascular disease takes an aspirin a day. At present, only 47% do, but the campaign's goal is to raise that to 65%.
• B ­– To make sure patients at high risk for high blood pressure maintain control. At present only 46% do. The goal is to raise that to 65%.
• C – To make sure people who need treatment for high cholesterol receive it. Currently, only 33% receive it but the Million Hearts drive seeks to raise that to 65%.
• S – Reduce smoking prevalence, currently at 19% of the population to 17%.

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