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For Release: Feb. 13, 2014 – Pamela Williams, Office of Communications – 405.271.5601

New Project to Improve Heart Health in SE Oklahoma

Heart disease and stroke are two of the leading causes of death and disability in the U.S., making cardiovascular disease the cause of 1 of every 3 deaths. More than 9,000 Oklahomans die each year from heart disease, or about 25 deaths per day. While heart disease is the number one killer of Oklahomans, it also takes an economic toll, resulting in nearly $2 billion in hospital charges in the state annually. The good news is that many deaths from heart disease and stroke can be prevented with simple, low-cost care.

The Oklahoma Heartland Project, a new public-private initiative, is working to reduce heart attacks and stroke in a five-county area in southeast Oklahoma. Public health personnel have joined with the health care community – including physicians, nurses, pharmacists, hospitals and insurers – to help patients reduce their risk for heart disease and stroke and live a longer, healthier life. Counties participating in the initiative include Pittsburg, Pontotoc, Coal, Atoka, and Latimer. The pilot project is funded through a grant from the Association of State and Territorial Health Officials as part of the national Million Hearts® initiative to prevent one million heart attacks and strokes in the U.S. by 2017.

“We are excited about this project and believe that by pooling the resources and efforts of public health and clinical care, we can truly make a difference in helping persons in the Oklahoma Heartland Project area reduce their risk for heart disease and stroke,” said Michael Echelle, administrative director for the five county health departments participating in the project.

A coordinated care team located in each county health department is now working with health care providers to assist them in helping referred patients control blood pressure and manage cholesterol, seek smoking cessation resources, learn heart-healthy habits, and connect to community based resources for help in managing their blood pressure and cholesterol. This health department team offers free blood pressure checks, tracks blood pressure readings, and works with a pharmacist to identify opportunities to increase successful use of medications. Patients who smoke are offered local cessation resources and are referred to the Oklahoma Tobacco Helpline (1-800-QUIT NOW). Counseling is available on making healthy diet choices and tips to increase physical activity.

The public health teams will collaborate with the health care community to encourage targeted patients to focus on the “ABCS” that can help prevent heart attacks and strokes: aspirin for people at risk, blood pressure control, cholesterol management, and smoking cessation.

Patients must be between the ages of 18 and 85 years, newly diagnosed and placed on medications or previously diagnosed and placed on medications but not controlled, or have other issues that have interfered in care management.

Partners in this initiative include the Oklahoma State Department of Health, Oklahoma Health Care Authority, Oklahoma Foundation for Medical Quality, OU College of Pharmacy, Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma, McAlester Regional Health Center, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Oklahoma, Warren Clinic, Oklahoma Hospital Association, and Caring Hands Healthcare Centers.

“It is fitting that we are announcing this project during February, which is Heart Health Month,” said Echelle. “We feel this project will be an important first step on the journey to better heart health for those we serve in southeast Oklahoma.”

For more information about the project, contact Echelle at the Pittsburg County Health Department at (918) 423-1267.



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