Connecting Across the Country for Heart Health

By James W. Blasetto, MD, MPH, FACC

Each year, the AstraZeneca HealthCare Foundation looks forward to National Heart Month in February when we meet our new grant awardees and see how they work to improve cardiovascular health in local communities.

This year was no different. The Foundation’s Connections for Cardiovascular HealthSM program awarded over $2.6 million in grants to 13 organizations, with Foundation representatives attending events in Illinois, Maryland, California, West Virginia and Michigan, in addition to a kickoff event in Mississippi.

We support these programs because they reach people in the places where they live and work – whether it is at schools, churches or even mobile clinics – while partnering with community health workers, health promoters and personal coaches to encourage healthy behaviors. Additionally, these innovative programs focus on delivering positive outcomes for patient health by providing tools that are tailored to individual cultures and communities.

Here are some highlights, starting with two events I was honored to attend in Springfield, Ill., and Charleston, W.Va. (and be sure to click on the organization names to learn more about the great work they do):

Springfield, Illinois

On February 18, the Foundation made contributions to three organizations at an event in Springfield, as Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner declared February 18 “Connections for Cardiovascular Health Awareness Day”:

  • OASIS Institute in St. Louis, Mo.; $223,501: “Get Pumped!” aims to improve the health behaviors of adults living in nine high-risk ZIP codes in the St. Louis area who have at least one risk factor for cardiovascular disease by providing health screenings, education and exercise programs at community locations using mobile health and evidence-based programs.
  • HSHS St. John’s Hospital in Springfield, Ill.; $205,564: “Launching a Tele-Heart Pathway” aims to address Healthy People 2020 objectives by identifying and partnering with heart failure patients and their caregivers in 13 disadvantaged communities using daily tele-health remote monitoring, support, education and evidence-based medication adjustments.
  • Presence Covenant Medical Center in Urbana, Ill.; $168,492: “The Cardiovascular Awareness and Risk Reduction Program” is designed to engage the community and Presence Covenant Medical Center’s community health partners to improve the quality of cardiovascular care through screening, education, treatment and support of healthy lifestyles, targeting uninsured and underinsured individuals.

From left to right: Mark R. Stampehl, MD, MA, FACC, Tele-Heart Pathway Project Director, Medical Director of Heart Failure, HSHS St. John’s Hospital; Dr. Charles Lucore, President and CEO, HSHS St. John’s Hospital; Jared C. Rogers, MD, CPE, FAAFP, President and CEO, Presence Covenant Medical Center; Dr. Lakshmi, Christie Clinic Cardiologist and Champion of the Cardiovascular Awareness & Risk Reduction Program at Presence Covenant Medical Center; Lucinda ‘Cindy’ Magsamen, RN, BSN, Sr. Provider Engagement Executive, Presence Covenant Medical Center; Michael P. McMillan, President & CEO, Urban League of Metropolitan St. Louis; Marcia M. Kerz, President, OASIS Institute; James W. Blasetto, MD, MPH, FACC, Chairman, AstraZeneca HealthCare Foundation and Rich Buckley, President, AstraZeneca HealthCare Foundation

Charleston, West Virginia

West Virginia Governor Earl Ray Tomblin declared February 24 to be “Connections for Cardiovascular Health Awareness Day” in conjunction with an event where the Foundation presented grants to three organizations:

  • Ashland-Boyd County Health Department in Ashland, Ky.; $223,000: “Appalachian Partnership for Positive Living and Eating (A.P.P.L.E.)” works to promote healthy childhood and youth development and control obesity among 750 children and their caregivers through a voluntary, community-based case management program in Boyd and Greenup, Ky.
  • West Virginia Health Right, Inc. in Charleston, W. Va.; $191,028: “SCALE (Sustainable Changes and Lifestyle Enhancement)” aims to achieve sustained weight loss in 50 obese patients to improve their health status and reduce cardiovascular risk factors.
  • Mary’s Health Wagon in Wise, Va.; $250,000: “Heart Health 1, 2, 3: Comprehensive Cardiovascular Disease Initiative for Diabetes Mellitus, Metabolic Syndrome and Obesity” is designed to identify, minimize and prevent cardiovascular disease in individuals with these conditions and Nonalcoholic Fatty Liver disease.

From left to right: James W. Blasetto, MD, MPH, FACC, Chairman, AstraZeneca HealthCare Foundation; Tim O’Toole, Director of Rehabilitation, Our Lady of Bellefonte Hospital; Holly West, Public Health Services Manager, Ashland-Boyd County Health Department; Jennifer Klaiber, Public Health Services Coordinator/ A.P.P.L.E. Program Coordinator, Ashland-Boyd County Health Department; David Shapiro, Vice President, Board of Directors, West Virginia Health Right, Inc.; Dr. Angie Settle, Executive Director, West Virginia Health Right, Inc.; Jennifer Burchett, Nurse Administrator/A.P.P.L.E. Program Director, Ashland-Boyd County Health Department and L. Kristin Newby, MD, MHS, Trustee, AstraZeneca HealthCare Foundation


Maryland Governor Larry Hogan declared February 19 “Connections for Cardiovascular Health Day” and the Eastern Shoshone Tribal Business Council declared February as “Heart Health Month.” Our team presented Saint Agnes Hospital Foundation, Inc. and Sundance Research Institute, Inc. with grants to support their cardiovascular initiatives.

  • Saint Agnes Hospital Foundation, Inc. in Baltimore; $215,647: “Heart-to-Heart” aims to empower its faith-based partners to effectively reduce cardiovascular disease risk factors in communities with severe healthcare disparities.
  • Sundance Research Institute, Inc. in Wind River Indian Reservation, Wyo.; $197,952: “Honoring Your Heart on the Wind River Indian Reservation” aims to build on and expand a coordinated clinical-community health education program to increase cardiovascular health knowledge and reduce cardiovascular disease risk factors among American Indian adults and families with children.

From left to right: Kathryn Langwell, MA, President, Sundance Research Institute, Inc.; Johnnetta Davis-Joyce, Vice President, Sundance Research Institute, Inc.; Catherine Keene, Executive Director, Eastern Shoshone Tribal Health Programs; Kristie McNealy, MD, Senior Researcher, Sundance Research Institute, Inc.; Ray Parisi, Trustee, AstraZeneca HealthCare Foundation; Joyce Jacobson, Executive Director, AstraZeneca HealthCare Foundation; Michael Miller, MD, FACC, FAHA, Trustee, AstraZeneca HealthCare Foundation; Carlos Ince, MD, Chief of Cardiology, Saint Agnes Hospital; Shannon Winakur, MD, Medical Director of Women’s Heart Center, Saint Agnes Hospital and Bonnie Phipps, President and CEO, Saint Agnes Healthcare

Thousand Oaks, California

Thousand Oaks, Ventura County and the California Assembly declared February 21st as “Connections for Cardiovascular Health Day” as the Foundation presented a grant to the Westminster Free Clinic:

  • Westminster Free Clinic in Thousand Oaks, Calif.; $192,994: “Corazones Sanos para Mi Familia (Healthy Hearts for My Family)” aims to improve the health outcomes of low-income, uninsured Latinos suffering from or at high risk for heart disease and/or diabetes through culturally competent, patient-centered services.

From left to right: Linda Parks, Chair, Ventura County Board of Supervisors; Lisa Safaeinili, Executive Director, Westminster Free Clinic; Ann Booth-Barbarin, Trustee, AstraZeneca HealthCare Foundation; Steve Kamajian, MD, Medical Director/Board President, Clinic Co-Founder, Westminster Free Clinic; Cindy Vinson, M.T., Board Member, Clinic Co-Founder, Westminster Free Clinic; Al Adam, Mayor of Thousand Oaks, CA and Jacqui Irwin, California State Assemblymember

Grand Rapids, Michigan

Michigan Governor Rick Snyder and Grand Rapids Mayor George Heartwell together proclaimed February 26th to be “Connections for Cardiovascular Health Awareness Day” in conjunction with the Foundation’s grant to Catherine’s Health Center:

  • Catherine’s Health Center in Grand Rapids, Mich.; $160,916: The “Heart Smart Connections” program aims to build on the successful “Live Heart Smart” program and improve the cardiovascular health of 2,000 low-income community residents by assisting with accessing health services including health insurance via the Affordable Care Act.

From left to right: Karen Kaashoek, Executive Director, Catherine’s Health Center; Mayor George Heartwell, City of Grand Rapids and Ann Booth-Barbarin, Secretary, AstraZeneca HealthCare Foundation

The full list of awardees can be found here, and click here to read about the earlier event we attended in Mississippi.

Since 2010, the Connections for Cardiovascular HealthSM program has awarded more than $17 million in grants to 43 organizations nationwide. More than 40,000 people have participated in a variety of programs of those organizations. As a result, we are seeing participants who are making healthier food choices, exercising more, reducing their body mass index, lowering their blood pressure and learning more about nutrition and how to lower their cardiovascular risk factors.

Dr. James Blasetto is the Chairman of the Board of the AstraZeneca HealthCare Foundation and Vice President of US Medical Affairs, Evidence Generation at AstraZeneca. He also is a Fellow in the American College of Cardiology.

Pictured top of page, from left to right: Cindy Vinson, M.T., Board Member, Clinic Co-Founder, Westminster Free Clinic; Ann Booth-Barbarin, Trustee, AstraZeneca HealthCare Foundation; Sara Green, Advocacy Development Manager, Medimmune, AstraZeneca and Lisa Safaeinili, Executive Director, Westminster Free Clinic