News Flash > Cardiovascular Health


Experts Take Step Toward National Heart Disease Surveillance

Reported March 24, 2009

WASHINGTON, D.C. (Ivanhoe Newswire) -- The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has started establishing a unit to systematically track cardiovascular disease and stroke in the United States, the first step toward an organized national surveillance system for the two conditions. Cardiovascular disease is the number one cause of death in the United States and stroke the number three cause.

This system will be the first of its kind in the United States. Although well-organized national surveillance systems exist for diseases like diabetes and cancer, no such system exists to monitor heart disease and stroke. Currently, the United States only tracks deaths associated with the conditions.

"Our goal is not really to prevent deaths," David C. Goff, Jr., M.D., Ph.D., Chair of the Department of Epidemiology and Prevention at the Wake Forest University School of Medicine in Winston-Salem, N.C., and past Chair of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's Working Group for the Public Health Action Plan to Prevent Heart Disease and Stroke, told Ivanhoe. "We want to prevent heart attacks and strokes, and to do that, we need to know how often they're occurring. Right now our system is a patchwork system that mixes up first heart attacks and subsequent heart attacks."



The goal of the new surveillance unit is to track patterns of cardiovascular disease and risk factors like smoking, obesity and exercise. Experts say this will lead to better control over and ultimately a lower incidence of heart disease and stroke in the United States.

"By using data-driven programs ... we can make tremendous advances within 10 or 20 years," Dr. Goff said. "We can reduce the rate of heart attack and stroke by at least 50 percent."

The new system will add questions about cardiovascular conditions and their risk factors to surveys like the National Health Interview Survey. Experts also plan to tap into resources like electronic health records and public health laboratories for information on heart disease and stroke occurrences.

SOURCE: Ivanhoe interview with David C. Goff, Jr., M.D., Ph.D.; presented at the 7th National Forum for Heart Disease & Stroke Prevention, March 17-20, Washington, D.C.