One In A Million Hearts Challenge: Interview with Dr. Janet Wright

I recently had the pleasure of interviewing Dr. Janet Wright Executive Director of the Million Hearts Initiative. The Million Hearts Initiative is a joint effort sponsored by the Center for Disease Control (CDC) and Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), designed to prevent one million heart attacks and strokes over the course of the next five years.

According to Dr. Wright, most people are unaware of the far-ranging consequences of cardiovascular disease and are unaware that heart attacks and strokes are preventable.  The impact of the disease is extensive – the country loses nearly eight hundred thousand people per year to heart attacks and strokes (one person every thirty-nine seconds) and individuals who survive cardiovascular diseases most often suffer from complications and concurrent disabilities.

After a long career as a practitioner and clinician, Dr. Wright transitioned into public health in order to spend less time treating, and devote more time to preventing cardiovascular disease.  In the interview, Dr. Wright notes this difference between treatment and prevention in terms of physician efficacy: “I found myself wishing that I were more effective in early conversations with people so that we didn’t end up in the cath-lab in the middle of the night…I found myself not being as persuasive or being as helpful to people in behavior change in getting them to exercise or stop smoking or stay on their medications.”

In the interview, Dr. Wright discusses the “One in a Million Hearts Challenge,” which is run under the auspices of the Office of the National Coordinator’s (ONC) Investing In Innovation (i2) Initiative.  The Challenge, managed by Health 2.0, asks developers to create applications that empower patients to improve their heart health.  Submissions should provide information about the Million Hearts Initiative, permit patients to enter information about their health status (age, BMI, BP, etc), use patient-reported data and the ABCs framework to generate target recommendations and send patient information to electronic health records via Direct.

The Challenge is one of the most promising to date and there are still over three weeks left before it closes on 12/31/11.  $75k in prizes will be awarded to winners. Interested teams can sign up today at http://www.health2challenge.org/one-in-a-million-hearts-challenge/.

We thank Dr. Wright for taking time out of her busy schedule to speak with us and we look forward to making the Million Hearts Initiative and the One In A Million Hearts challenge great successes.

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