April 4, 2013

CDPH, Northwestern and the GE Foundation Team Up to Save Lives through Innovative New Heart Initiative

Keep Your Heart Healthy provides outreach and comprehensive services to At-Risk Chicagoans

Brian Richardson    312.747.9805 brian.richardson@cityofchicago.org

For Immediate Release

CHICAGO - This week, the City of Chicago launched Keep Your Heart Healthy, a collaborative and innovative program designed to identify Chicago residents most at risk for developing heart disease, then working on an individual basis with those residents to empower them to make life changes, reducing their risk moving forward.

"Chicago is breaking new ground with this approach," said Chicago Department of Public Health (CDPH) Commissioner Bechara Choucair, M.D. "By empowering residents to take better control of their lives, we will help individuals live longer. By building new partnerships between public health agencies, clinical medicine and grassroots development organizations, we will be able to build healthier neighborhoods for all people."   

Heart disease and stroke remain the leading causes of death and disability in both Chicago and the United States. The diseases are largely preventable by avoiding and controlling the main risk factors that cause them: high blood pressure, high blood cholesterol, smoking, physical inactivity and diabetes.  Keep Your Heart Healthy intends to reduce these risks and will launch later this year in two Chicago pilot neighborhoods which will be selected based, in part, on the disproportionate number of individuals at risk for heart disease. The initiative has three main components to reducing risk for heart disease.

  1. Identify individuals most at risk for developing heart disease.
  2. Link individuals to medical care and direct services through referrals so risk factors can be brought under control.
  3. Work with the individuals in an ongoing basis to make changes in diet, exercise and other areas to reduce their risk for heart disease.

Program designers are currently determining the most effective tactics to achieve the above goals, as well as metrics to determine success for both the individuals involved and the initiative at large.

"We now know how to prevent most cases of heart disease and stroke," said Stephen Havas, M.D., professor of preventive medicine at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine and scientific leader for the pilot study. "In this unique endeavor, medical students, public health students, residents and faculty will provide screening and education to Chicago residents in these two communities about how to reduce their risk of developing these diseases. Our goal is to work directly with individuals to reduce disparities in mortality and disability in cardiovascular disease in Chicago."

Keep Your Heart Healthy represents a new approach to public health interventions by creating partnerships between government, academia, community based organizations and the private sector. The initiative is a collaboration between CDPH and Northwestern University and funded by a generous grant from the GE Foundation.

"Through our Developing Health program we've been partnering with health centers across the U.S. to help them increase access to quality care in underserved communities. As we look to expand the program, it made sense for us to work with our partners and ask them to begin to look at health at the city level and ask them to collaborate to overcome a community-based challenge," said Bob Corcoran, president and chairman of the GE Foundation. "About one-third of adults in Illinois reported having high blood pressure or cholesterol, which puts them at greater risk for developing heart disease and stroke. Chicago is just one of four pilots underway and we can't wait to see the results of the combined work."

The announcement kicked off a meeting of more than 100 public health and health care leaders from around the country who converged on Chicago to define strategies to improve the health of their communities.

"We have to do this together," commented Dr. Denise Koo, from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), one of the event's hosts. "Our nation's health depends on the kinds of partnerships exemplified by the Healthy Chicago initiative." The event was also hosted by the de Beaumont Foundation and the National Association of County and City Health Officials (NACCHO).

Over the next several months, CDPH will work with program designers to finalize the two neighborhoods and the strategies for meeting the ambitious goal of reducing the risk of heart disease.

"Today's news is just the first step," continued Dr. Choucair. "Keep Your Heart Healthy will show success for individuals through better, healthier living - success that will expand to every neighborhood in Chicago and beyond."     

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