AstraZeneca HealthCare Foundation Kicks Off Fifth Year of Connections for Cardiovascular Health Program

By Rich Buckley, Vice President, U.S. Corporate Affairs

Cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death in the United States, with more than 85 million Americans age 20 and older currently living with the disease. While this remains a discouraging figure, the good news is that given all we have learned about treating cardiovascular disease, there are steps you can take to manage the condition and help reduce your risk.

Not everyone knows the risk factors, nor does everyone have access to resources that can help them manage those risks and otherwise improve their heart health. The AstraZeneca HealthCare Foundation launched the Connections for Cardiovascular HealthSM program in 2010 to help improve cardiovascular health, with the support of a $25 million charitable contribution from AstraZeneca. This program aims to improve heart health in communities nationwide by awarding grants annually to nonprofit organizations across the country that are making a difference through innovative grassroots programs.

Take, for example, Manna Ministries’ “Heart 2 Heart” program, which works to reduce the incidence of cardiovascular disease in southern Mississippi and Louisiana by providing uninsured and underinsured individuals and families with educational resources, as well as access to a clinic for free and/or affordable treatment and screenings. The program encourages participants to commit to heart health, and to pass on what they learn to family members, friends and neighbors, creating a legacy of heart healthy behaviors in their local communities.

In 2014, the AstraZeneca HealthCare Foundation announced a grant to Manna Ministries of more than $150,000 to support its Heart 2 Heart program. The program is working. To date, roughly half of 142 participants lowered their triglyceride levels by an average of 40 points, and nearly 80 percent of a group of more than 40 participants with blood pressure higher than 140/90 decreased their blood pressure by the end of the program. In addition, many participants lost weight and made heart-healthy lifestyle changes, including improved diet and exercise habits.

From left to right: Ed Pinero, Mayor, City of Picayune, Miss.; Jameye Martin, Executive Director, Manna Ministries; Angela Hill, Mississippi State Senator; Tony Smith, Mississippi State Senator; and Rich Buckley, President, AstraZeneca HealthCare Foundation

On Monday, February 9, I traveled to Manna Ministries in Picayune, Mississippi for a special event to celebrate the Heart 2 Heart program and its impact on the community. As President of the AstraZeneca HealthCare Foundation, I was also honored to present the dedicated team at Manna Ministries with a second grant in the amount of $152,763 to help them expand the Heart 2 Heart program. We have no doubt that it will continue to have a significant and sustainable impact in the area.

This was the first of several events being held throughout the country during Heart Month in February to recognize the important work being done by this year’s AstraZeneca HealthCare Foundation grant recipients. In 2015 we are announcing that 13 organizations, from Maryland to California, are receiving more than $2.6 million for their efforts to improve cardiovascular health and disease awareness. The complete list of this year’s grant recipients and a brief overview of each is available here.

The entire AstraZeneca HealthCare Foundation team and I are sincerely impressed by the work that these organizations are doing in their communities every day. Since the inception of Connections for Cardiovascular HealthSM, an incredible 1.2 million hearts have been touched through the programs it has helped fund, and the progress of more than 40,000 participants has been tracked. We look forward to continuing our work together to improve heart health across the country, one person at a time.

Pictured above, left to right: Ed Pinero, Mayor of Picayune, MS; Jameye Martin, Executive Director, Manna Ministries; Rich Buckley, President, AstraZeneca HealthCare Foundation; Tony Smith, Mississippi State Senator; Jackie Adams, Heart 2 Heart program participant; Angela Hill, Mississippi State Senator; Cecilia Hargett, Heart 2 Heart program participant