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Preventing Chronic Disease: Public Health Research, Practice and Policy

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Emerging Infectious Diseases Journal


Volume 5: No. 2, April 2008

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Cover of the April 2008 issue

A soft heart, a broken heart, a sweetheart . . . the heart has been a metaphor for poets, philosophers, and artists throughout history and in different cultures symbolizes the emotional, rational, or spiritual center of our being. Particularly for scientists, the heart has presented a fascinating puzzle, one that researchers continue to solve today. In the 4th century BC, Aristotle believed that the heart was the most important organ of the body, because it was the first organ he observed to form in chick embryos (1). In the 2nd century, Galen viewed the heart as tripartite, interrelated with the liver and brain, and argued that the heart and diaphragm distilled the “animal spirit” (2). However, by the 17th century William Harvey’s On the Circulation of the Blood had positioned the heart back to biological and metaphorical center stage, writing: “The heart . . . is the beginning of life; the sun of the microcosm, even as the sun in his turn might well be designated the heart of the world” (3).

As knowledge about the workings of the heart grew, so too did the creations of writers and artists, including movie makers. The 1966 science-fiction film Fantastic Voyage looked ahead to a time when scientists could explore and heal the body from the inside. Although miniaturization is still in the realm of imagination, we know more about the heart and healing than Harvey’s contemporaries could have imagined. The themed articles in this issue of Preventing Chronic Disease focus on the advancement of that knowledge, addressing heart disease and stroke as part of the prevention continuum and throughout multiple levels of influence on population health. The articles in this issue demonstrate that, through collaboration with national and state partners, public health professionals can help to prevent, detect, and treat risk factors contributing to heart disease and stroke.


  1. Crivellato E, Ribatti D. Aristotle: the first student of angiogenesis. Leukemia 2006;20(7):1209–10. Accessed February 26, 2008.
  2. Baig MN, Chishty F, Immesoete P, Karas CS. The Eastern heart and Galen’s ventricle: a historical review of the purpose of the brain. Neurosurg Focus 2007;23(1):E3. Accessed February 26, 2008.
  3. Scientific papers; physiology, medicine, surgery, geology, with introductions, notes and illustrations. Vol. 38, The Harvard classics. New York (NY): P. F. Collier & Son; c1910. From The Internet Modern History Sourcebook. Accessed February 26, 2008.

Cover artist: Kristen Immoor
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The opinions expressed by authors contributing to this journal do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the Public Health Service, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, or the authors’ affiliated institutions. Use of trade names is for identification only and does not imply endorsement by any of the groups named above.


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