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Updated AHA Guide Helps Policy Makers, Providers Manage Cardiovascular Disease

Focus is on community interventions to change behaviors (Mar. 21)

The American Heart Association (AHA) has released new recommendations for policy makers and public health providers to combat heart disease and stroke on a local level.

The evidence-based goals, strategies, and recommendations for community-based public health interventions were published in Circulation.

“The future burden of cardiovascular disease, unless we can prevent it, is projected to have an enormous economic impact. Public health goals should focus on developing interventions that help make an individual’s default decisions healthy,” said co-author Thomas A. Pearson, MD, MPH, PhD.

Maintaining optimal cardiovascular health can “avert the continuing progression of cardiovascular disease risk in each generation, which continues to demand remedial strategies that are too costly, too limited, and often too late,” Pearson said.

The updated guide focuses on:

  • Changing behaviors, such as smoking, physical inactivity, and unhealthy eating habits
  • Increasing awareness of risk factors, such as high cholesterol, high blood pressure, diabetes, and adherence to treatment
  • Identifying community settings from worksites to barbershops that best affect health
  • Specifying the types of interventions —media, organizational partnerships, and policy change — that may affect health

Since the previous guide, issued in 2003, the AHA has created new goals based on recent evidence that demonstrates the substantial effect of obesity, sodium consumption, and air pollution on cardiovascular health.

“The AHA Community Guide offers 125 opportunities to optimize the cardiovascular health where we live, work, play, learn, worship, and stay well. Wherever there is a community, there are opportunities to achieve the AHA’s 2020 goals to improve cardiovascular health for all Americans,” said co-author Latha Palaniappan, MD, MS.

The new guide lists programs that illustrate best practices at national, regional, and local levels, with the aim of achieving the AHA’s 2020 impact goals, which are “to improve the cardiovascular health of all Americans by 20% while reducing deaths from cardiovascular diseases and stroke by 20%.” The focus of the goals is to prevent heart disease and stroke by helping people identify and adopt healthier lifestyle choices.

Sources: American Heart Association; March 21, 2013; and Circulation; March 21, 2013.

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