To bolster ongoing efforts to address the leading causes of suffering and death in our nation and to engage the physician community in improving national health outcomes, the American Medical Association (AMA) recently announced the first phase of its new multi-year, multi-million dollar improving health outcomes (IHO) initiative: preventing cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes and improving health outcomes for those with these conditions.

“Cardiovascular disease accounts for one-third of all deaths in our nation, and one-in-three adults could have diabetes by 2050 if current trends continue,” said AMA President Jeremy Lazarus, M.D. “The toll of these diseases on our nation is staggering – in terms of human suffering and health care costs. The direct and indirect cost of cardiovascular disease and diabetes is more than $535 billion a year.”

The AMA’s efforts will include working closely with ongoing national programs, galvanizing America’s physicians and patients to focus on preventing and controlling cardiovascular disease and diabetes and teaming with new partners to address high blood pressure and prediabetes.

“When America’s physicians work together with patients, communities and other members of the health care team we can have a tremendous impact on health outcomes,” said Dr. Lazarus at the National Summit on Health Disparities hosted by the National Minority Quality Forum. “We will begin our new initiative with a focus on risk factors for cardiovascular disease and diabetes, aiming for optimal blood pressure, blood sugar and cholesterol levels for all U.S. adults.”

The AMA chose the National Summit on Health Disparities to launch its effort as rates of diabetes are higher in Native American, African American and Latino communities, and African Americans are more likely to have cardiovascular disease.

Cardiovascular Disease
The key to preventing cardiovascular disease is preventing and treating high blood pressure. One-in-three U.S. adults has high blood pressure, the number one risk factor for disability and death. The AMA is partnering with the Armstrong Institute for Patient Safety and Quality, a research institute within Johns Hopkins Medicine, to help meet and exceed the goal of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Million Hearts Initiative to bring the high blood pressure of 10 million more Americans under control by 2017. AMA and the Armstrong Institute will work with physicians, care teams, patients and communities to better understand the reasons for uncontrolled blood pressure, find clinically meaningful solutions and share lessons learned.

Type 2 Diabetes
One-in-three U.S. adults has prediabetes, a condition in which blood sugar is higher than normal but not yet in the diabetic range. Those with prediabetes are at greatly increased risk of developing type 2 diabetes. The AMA’s initial efforts to help prevent diabetes will be in support of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) National Diabetes Prevention Program. The CDC encourages physicians to refer patients with prediabetes to an evidence-based lifestyle change program that helps increase physical activity, improve diet and achieve moderate weight loss, which reduces the risk for type 2 diabetes. In partnership with the YMCA of the USA, the AMA will work to increase physician referrals of patients with prediabetes to the evidence-based diabetes prevention programs offered by the Y.

“We are excited to work with the AMA on our shared goal of preventing diabetes. Connecting physician practices to the YMCA’s Diabetes Prevention Program will ensure that those at greatest risk have the opportunity to prevent or delay diabetes,” said Jonathan Lever, vice president of health innovation and strategy, YMCA of the USA. “This novel collaboration between medical practices and community-based programs could prove to be a model for promoting health and wellness.”

“These are the first steps toward the AMA’s ambitious, long-term goal of achieving measurable improvements in health outcomes for patients in the United States,” said Dr. Lazarus. “We look forward to partnering with many individuals and organizations who share these goals.”

American Medical Association Press Release