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Department of Health and Human Services
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News Release

Tuesday, April 15, 2003

Contact: CDC Communications Office
(770) 488-5131


HHS Secretary Tommy G. Thompson today introduced a strategy for developing a national health care system that addresses the prevention and treatment of heart disease and stroke. The strategy, "A Public Health Action Plan to Prevent Heart Disease and Stroke," provides health practitioners and policymakers a framework to prevent and treat heart disease and stroke, the nation's first and third leading causes of death.

"These leading causes of death for men and women are largely preventable, yet we as a nation are not taking the steps necessary for us to lead healthier, longer lives," said Secretary Thompson. "Our nation is facing one of its most challenging health crises where the cost of failure is too high. We must start emphasizing prevention of this epidemic. "

The action plan, which was unveiled at HHS' "Steps to a HealthierUS: Putting Prevention First" conference in Baltimore, estimates that heart disease and stroke will have an economic cost of more than $351 billion in 2003. In addition, certain racial and ethnic populations are at increased risk of heart disease and stroke, as are people with lower income and educational levels.

"While we know the federal government has an important role to play in this action plan, we also will draw on the strengths of our partners -- state, local and tribal governments, community and faith-based organizations, the private sector and individuals -- to help develop new and creative approaches to solving this nation's biggest health challenge -- heart disease and stroke," says Dr. Julie Gerberding, director of HHS' Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

As we work with these partners, we hope to increase both the quality and years of healthy life for all Americans," said Dr. Elias Zerhouni, director of HHS' National Institutes of Health. "This action plan will be guided by new advances in science. We are committed to supporting research on the prevention, detection, and control of cardiovascular disease and its risk factors."

Throughout the conference, Secretary Thompson underscored his priorities and programs for "Steps to a HealthierUS," the department's initiative to advance the President's HealthierUS Initiative. The action plan announced today embraces this national initiative by highlighting the need for urgent action to prevent and treat heart disease and stroke. The plan's five main recommendations are:

  • Taking action to prevent and treat heart disease and stroke by using the latest scientific findings;
  • Ensuring a clear focus at public health agencies;
  • Evaluating the impact of policy and program interventions;
  • Advancing prevention policies; and
  • Collaborating with regional and global partners to share knowledge and practices.

"This plan will help the public health community make the nation's number one health threat a number one priority," said American Heart Association President Robert O. Bonow. "We already have much science and knowledge to help prevent and treat heart disease and stroke. Now we have a national vision and roadmap for the public health community to help guide its efforts, and strategies to give Americans a healthier future."

Joining Secretary Thompson at the conference were representatives from the national organizations working with HHS to implement the action agenda. They include the American Heart Association (AHA), the American Stroke Association (ASA) and the Association of State and Territorial Health Officials (ASTHO).

For more information or for free copies of A Public Health Action Plan to Prevent Heart Disease and Stroke, write to the CDC's National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, Division of Adult and Community Health, 4770 Buford Highway NE, MS K-45, Atlanta, GA 30341-3717; call 1-888-232-2306 (toll free inside the United States); e-mail:; or visit the Web site


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Last Revised: April 15, 2003

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