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Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine
Keep Your Heart Healthy

Targeting Alarming Health Disparities in Chicago

Cardiovascular disease (CVD) disproportionately affects minority populations, and the disparity in Chicago is alarming. Keep Your Heart Healthy is a community-based program seeking to lower death rates from these diseases by reducing the related risk factors and overcoming health disparities in Chicago. With our community partners, we aim to improve access to healthcare for at-risk individuals and offer evidence-based education to empower them to lead healthier lives. Through CVD risk factor screening and education, KYHH offers a readily accessible resource for residents who otherwise might not take steps toward reducing their risk for CVD.

Our community-based program includes strategies to reduce these health disparities by:

  • Providing regular opportunities for CVD risk assessment and counseling
  • Increasing access to health care for at-risk individuals
  • Engaging community partners to address social determinants of health

Progress to Date

From our evaluation data thus far, 98.5 percent of 550 participants surveyed “Strongly Agree” or “Agree” that the Keep Your Heart Healthy program has been a helpful experience. A large part of this endorsement is due to the close and caring attention given by trained medical students and community health workers who take the time to understand the participant’s health concerns and work with them to develop an action plan. 100 percent of participants would recommend KYHH to a family or friend.

From 2013 to date, the program has screened over 50,000 participants from 18 underserved communities in Chicago. Preliminary results from our follow-up phone survey of participants at four to six weeks after initial screenings shows significant impact on self-reported improvements in physical activity, diet and smoking cessation. Our desired long-term outcomes for participants (6-to-12 months) include clinical data demonstrating significant reductions in weight, managing blood pressure, and/or smoking status. Keep Your Heart Healthy represents an impactful model of CVD prevention that can be replicated in other U.S. cities. With additional time and support, KYHH could expand to more underserved Chicago communities and help achieve our goal to make Chicago the healthiest city in the nation.

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