WASHINGTON – February is American Heart Month, a time to educate Americans on what they can do to live heart-healthy lives. With that mission in mind, the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) and the Department of Health and Human Services have joined forces to promote the Million Hearts™ campaign ––a national initiative that has set a goal of preventing one million heart attacks and strokes over five years.
The Million Hearts™ campaign encourages a targeted focus on the “ABCS” – Aspirin for people at risk, Blood pressure control, Cholesterol management, and Smoking cessation ––all of which address the major risk factors for cardiovascular disease and can prevent heart attacks and strokes.
“The Million Hearts campaign encourages Americans to receive appropriate care for cardiac risk factors and to make healthy choices,” said VA Secretary Eric K. Shinseki. “VA is proud to be a partner in this important campaign.”
VA has tobacco use cessation clinicians at each VA facility, as well as dietitians who are available to provide nutrition counseling. MOVE! — VA’s national weight management program— is helping Veterans lose weight and keep it off. And our highly-trained VA pharmacists are talking to their patients about the importance of staying on blood pressure medications and controlling their hypertension.”
Many Veterans in VA primary care population have chronic conditions, and many have multiple diagnoses. Of this population, 52 percent have hypertension, 36 percent have obesity, 24 percent have diabetes, and 18 percent have coronary heart disease.
VA Undersecretary for Health Robert Petzel, M.D., described the Million Hearts™ campaign as an important partner in VA’s disease prevention efforts. “We’ll continue communicating our Million Hearts goals to our front-line providers and patients,” he said. “We’ll continue promoting effective management of the ABCS goals through our Patient Aligned Care Teams and our Healthy Living Campaign. And we’ll continue to identify and partner with community efforts to promote and improve smoking cessation and overall heart health.”
“Our goal is to provide high value care for all the Veterans we serve,” said Roxane Rusch, VA’s deputy assistant deputy under secretary for health for quality, safety and value. “This means focusing on the individual’s experience as well as how we are improving population health over time.”
VA’s increased focus on helping patients quit smoking, lose weight, eat healthier, and become more physically active, will enhance the successful tobacco and alcohol intervention programs already in place, and help Veterans achieve greater success.
In its efforts to place more emphasis on disease prevention, VA has established a Health Promotion/Disease Prevention Program Committee at every VA medical center. Committee members represent a range of disciplines and content areas. Their job is to oversee the prevention-related activities of the facility and to support VA’s “Healthy Living” campaign, which was launched in 2011 to continually emphasize specific healthy living messages and suggestions for Veterans. These messages cover core prevention areas including nutrition, physical activity, weight management, smoking, alcohol use, stress management, clinical preventive services, safety, and health care communication.