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Hospital-Community Partnership Cuts Heart Disease 24%

Human heart and arteries (Yale School of Medicine/Wikimedia Commons)

(Yale School of Medicine/Wikimedia Commons)

A collaboration of health systems and the town of New Ulm, Minnesota, has resulted in a 24 percent reduction of heart disease in the community over 15 months. The findings were presented at a meeting of the American College of Cardiology on 3 April.

The initiative — called Hearts Beat Back: The Heart of New Ulm Project — aims to prevent heart attacks among the 10,000 adults in the region of New Ulm, Minnesota. The 10-year project is funded by Allina Hospitals and Clinics, a hospital network based in Minneapolis, with partners Minneapolis Heart Institute Foundation and the New Ulm Medical Center.

Jackie Boucher, vice president of the Minneapolis Heart Institute Foundation says Hearts Beat Back “encourages a large population to embrace lifestyle changes, such as smoking cessation and improved nutrition that could improve long-term heart health, with the assistance of local employers and innovative health care technology.”

In the study, researchers conducted a quality improvement analysis to quantify the number of unique acute incident and recurrent heart attacks over 30 months between January 2008 and June 2010. The first 15 months represent the period before active interventions began and the second 15 months cover the period since active interventions. The population included all adult residents with New Ulm mailing addresses.

The study recorded both fatal and non-fatal acute heart events using an electronic surveillance system. More than 92 percent of the target population have their data in an electronic health records, which provided a database available to the researchers.

Through the electronic health records, the team identified high-risk individuals for cardiovascular disease, such as those with pre-diabetes, diabetes, high body mass index or a family history, and recommended the appropriate exercise programs, nutrition plans and medical strategies.

Total acute heart attacks were 62 in the pre-intervention quarters versus 47 in intervention quarters, a reduction of 24 percent. In addition, there were no fatal heart attack events in three of the second five quarters, covering the second 15 month period. In each of previous five quarters, however, there were fatal acute heart attacks.

Read more: Heart Disease Treatment Cost Expected to Triple by 2030

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3 comments to Hospital-Community Partnership Cuts Heart Disease 24%

  • David Kotok

    In principle this seems like a good program. However, I do not see the evidence that the intervention actually caused the improvement. What is the evidence for cause & effect? Are we to assume that the smokers and the obese did not slready know that they should change their lifestyle?

  • Thanks David for the comment. This is probably a case where the investigators had to balance public-health concerns with research design. To get more solid evidence, they should have divided the population into test and control samples. But it would have been difficult selling the idea of withholding potentially life-saving information from half of the town’s adults. As such, they ended up with before-and-after results that leave open the questions you raise.

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