Dr Janet Wright on Cardiologists' Role in Public Health and Prevention Efforts
The Million Hearts initiative, with its goal of preventing a million cardiovascular events in 5 years, requires sustained efforts by cardiologists in conjunction with public health experts to achieve success, explained Janet Wright, MD, FACC, the program’s executive director.
Transcript (slightly modified) How has your experience as a cardiologist shaped your approach to leading Million Hearts?
I actually was an interventional and clinical cardiologist before working at ACC, and now with Million Hearts. Really what I see is the whole arc of care, and actually the arc of life. By that I mean, in cardiology we have awesome contributions from interventionists who really save people, bring them back from the brink. We need their continued work, life-saving work.
In addition, we need both those interventionists and other types of cardiologists to use their teams to improve prevention, to keep people from ever having to end up in the cath lab, or in the emergency room. It’s entirely possible with the systems that we have and the systems that we’re building.
But I’d go a step further, and that’s really been a lesson for me in Million Hearts, is to incorporate and collaborate closely with public health. We don’t actually, thank goodness, live in our healthcare settings – often cardiologists feel like they live in a healthcare setting, but we live in communities, we live in towns, we live in connection with others, of course, in our community. So, bringing in the public health actions will actually help keep people healthy and begin to impact the number that end up needing some sort of cardiovascular care and hopefully reducing the number who end up in a cardiovascular emergency.
We are strong believers in Million Hearts that it is a public health—healthcare interaction, and in 2022 we’ll be focusing on high-priority populations, like African Americans with hypertension, or individuals with mental health and substance use who also smoke cigarettes, and certainly those who have already had a cardiovascular event, making sure that they get the medications, that they get cardiac rehab, and healthy lifestyles.