A Decade of Making a Difference in Improving Heart Health

By: James Blasetto, MD, MPH, FACC, Board Chairman, AstraZeneca HealthCare Foundation

Ten years ago, the AstraZeneca HealthCare Foundation made a commitment to help address our nation’s leading cause of death – cardiovascular disease (CVD). Thanks to funding from AstraZeneca, the Foundation established Connections for Cardiovascular HealthSM (CCH) and has provided $23.7 million in grants and capacity building to 52 organizations across the United States.

Even more important than those numbers is the measurable impact our Grant Awardees are having on improving the heart health of people in their communities. Their programs, which are evaluated by our university partners, demonstrate results – from weight loss to lower blood pressure and blood sugar levels – and have helped over 63,000 program participants make small lifestyle changes to improve their CVD risk factors.  

The programs address communities and populations in need, like in Mississippi – the state with some of the highest levels of CVD mortality and some of the highest poverty rates in the country. Mallory Community Health’s (Lexington, MS) “Take Control of Your Health” program uses a team-based approach to develop individual wellness plans for participants, who engage in educational classes, physical activity and hand-on lessons like grocery store tours.

“Thanks to the program, [I’m] making better food choices and working out has become part of my daily routine.”

Darlene, “Take Control of Your Health” participant who lost 10 pounds and lowered cholesterol by 20 points.

The University of Mississippi (Jackson, MS) launched the “Healthy Hearts in the Heart of the City” program this year to address CVD in their community. As a new Grant Awardee, they participated in our mentorship pilot to help tackle the challenges faced when getting a program started. We connected them with West Virginia Health Right (Charleston, WV) who shared their lessons learned on how they engage participants in their state, which has one of the highest prevalence rates of obesity, through their “SCALE ® (Sustainable Change and Lifestyle Enhancement)” program.

Looking back at these programs, as well as others and their outcomes, we have learned together how to better address this devastating disease. Many Grant Awardees are making an impact outside of their communities by sharing lessons learned so other organizations can learn by their example and, hopefully, benefit for years to come.

As we look to the future, we aim to build on that success and that’s why we will launch CCH Next Generation in February 2020 with an open call for applications for new organizations, targeting those in the top 20 states with the highest rates of CVD mortality. Applicants may utilize our Effective Program Practices Guide to modify or adapt learnings for their own community-based heart health programs – and each new Grant Awardee will be paired with a mentor.

Over the years, we’ve learned – we are better together. Whether it’s the Foundation, the Grant Awardees or their program participants, we all need a little help along the way to make a difference. Thank you to the organizations we’ve collaborated with over the past decade – your efforts get to the heart of the matter, one person at a time.

To learn more about the CCH program and how to apply for funding, visit https://www.astrazeneca-us.com/foundation.

The AstraZeneca HealthCare Foundation is a tax-exempt entity organized under section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code, and is separate from AstraZeneca Pharmaceuticals.