How Local Health Departments are Helping Prevent Cardiovascular Disease

By Camillia M. Easley, MPH, Program Analyst, Healthy Communities/Chronic Disease, NACCHO

February is American Heart Month, an opportunity for local health departments (LHDs) to raise awareness about cardiovascular disease (heart disease and stroke) control and prevention. While cardiovascular disease continues to be the leading cause of death among men and women, certain populations are disproportionally affected by the disease. African-Americans have a higher mortality rate for cardiovascular disease, have a higher prevalence of hypertension and diabetes, and are less likely to be treated by evidence-based guidelines.1

As a member of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Million Hearts Collaborative, NACCHO invites LHDs to be a part of Million HeartsTM, a national initiative with the ambitious goal of preventing one million heart attacks and strokes by 2017. NACCHO provides LHDs with resources, publications, and webinars to educate the public on the importance of preventing heart attack and stroke in the United States.

To help LHDs educate the public, policymakers, and community partners, NACCHO developed The Million HeartsTM Local Engagement Guide. The guide provides examples for LHDs to create conditions and policies that help people make healthy choices, such as avoiding tobacco use, becoming more physically active, and eating healthier foods. All of these proactive measures contribute to the prevention of chronic diseases such as obesity, diabetes, and heart disease.

The Million HeartsTM Local Engagement Guide features two LHDs that are addressing the burden of cardiovascular disease in their communities:

  • The District of Columbia Department of Health is addressing the burden of cardiovascular disease by aligning with Million HeartsTM, dedicating efforts to foster clinical innovations, and expanding community initiatives to support healthier behaviors. The efforts are focused around policy and environmental approaches, health system interventions, and community-clinical linkages.
  • The Denver Public Health Department has done considerable work in elucidating the role patient navigators could play in promoting cardiovascular health in their communities and leveraging their community partnerships to achieve a number of objectives.

NACCHO also produced a webinar series that helps LHDs improve their awareness and understanding of practice-based LHD programs that address cardiovascular health and local efforts to implement the Million HeartsTM initiative in cardiovascular disease prevention. Webinar topics have included the ABCs (aspirin use, blood-pressure control, cholesterol management, and smoking cessation), local strategies for improved blood pressure monitoring, and chronic disease self-management programs. The webinar series highlighted programs from the following LHDs:

  • West Virginia Bureau for Public Health;
  • Iowa Department of Public Health;
  • Oklahoma City-County Health Department; and
  • District of Columbia Department of Health.

Preventing one million heart attacks and strokes by 2017 will require work and commitment from LHDs, primary healthcare providers, and the business community. NACCHO thanks the LHDs that have made progress in cardiovascular disease in their communities. If you would like to join NACCHO in preventing one million heart attacks and strokes by 2017, learn how you can get involved at NACCHO’s Million Hearts webpage.

  1. American Heart Association. (2014). Heart disease and stroke statistics—2014 update: A report from the American Heart Association. Circulation, 129:e28–e292. Retrieved February 10, 2015, from

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