US Virgin Islands: Fighting Heart Disease with the Cardiovascular Health Initiative
Heart disease is one of the most common chronic diseases in the US Virgin Islands (USVI), leading to loss of life, frequent hospital stays, and medical complications. In 2012, almost 31% of deaths in the USVI were due to heart disease and stroke. Increased tobacco use, obesity, lack of physical activity, and unhealthy food choices are some of the factors that contribute to heart disease. To address this major health challenge, the Virgin Islands Department of Health used Preventive Health and Health Services (PHHS) Block Grant funds to develop and launch its Cardiovascular Health Initiative (CHI).
CHI began in April 2016 with support from a team of medical providers and other health professionals. The goal was to create a health and wellness program for residents older than 30 who are at risk for, or have a diagnosis of, heart disease. CHI started a 12-week pilot program with a group of 26 people. The program educated the group about risk factors for cardiovascular disease and ways to stay healthy, counseled them on nutrition, encouraged them to be physically active, discussed biometric measurements (e.g., DNA analysis to identify hereditary risk factors for heart disease), and provided resources to help participants improve their self-care. CHI supported home visits by medical providers when needed. PHHS funding was also used to pay for the services of an exercise therapist, a chef for a healthy cooking class, and a cardiologist for patient consultation, examination, and education.
After enrolling in the CHI pilot, 16 of the 26 participants reported that the program increased their understanding of heart disease. The program also helped 38% of participants lose weight, 50% reduce their blood pressure, and 42% maintain their blood pressure. Sixty-nine percent of participants reported exercising more and feeling more confident and motivated.
Because of this program, many participants now know more about how to improve their cardiovascular health. The PHHS Block Grant is helping residents of the USVI take healthy steps to combat heart disease.
Story year: 2015