The facts and figures about heart
disease and stroke in Maryland are ugly, and they are close to home.
When a disease causes one out of every four deaths in the state, we can
no longer turn the page of the newspaper and ignore it.
After decades of steadily rising
levels of obesity, diabetes, and hypertension nationwide, we must act
together to fight heart disease. Gym memberships and well-intentioned
New Year’s resolutions are a start, but heart disease is more than just a
threat. It’s here, it’s a public health crisis, and to fight it, we
need an army.
That army rallied on February 13
at the Maryland Million Hearts Symposium at Martin’s West in Baltimore.
The Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, together with the Delmarva
Foundation, brought together innovators from the fields of health care,
business and education, along with non-profit organizations and
community leaders, to share ideas on how we can fight heart disease and
Maryland was the first state to
sign a commitment to Million Hearts, a Centers for Disease Control and
Prevention (CDC) initiative that champions this ‘multi-sectoral’
approach to tackling heart disease. At the base of the initiative is the
idea that we all need support in making the lifestyle changes necessary
to prevent heart disease. If the things everyone needs more of—physical
activity, access to healthy foods and drinks, support to quit smoking,
regular health care and medication monitoring—are available where we
live, work, learn and play—than we have an easier chance to make a
So exactly what kind of change
does that mean? It can mean little things like adding more fruits and
veggies to school lunch programs, or employers encouraging a mid-day
walking break at work. It can mean bigger things like revamping employee
health benefits to include incentives for participating in wellness
activities, or actively engaging community pharmacists to encourage
medication adherence in patients with high blood pressure.
While heart disease data might
seem grim, Marylanders can be encouraged that our state is on the
forefront of creating groundbreaking partnerships in our communities, in
our schools and workplaces. Our army is mobilized, and the push is on
to give every Maryland citizen new opportunities to reduce the risk of
heart disease and other chronic conditions—to create an environment
where the healthiest choice is the easiest choice. Stay tuned for the
success stories as we move into battle.