Two recent studies in The American Journal of Medicine reinforce the effectiveness of Kaiser Permanente’s ongoing cardiovascular initiatives.
Death rates from heart disease and stroke in adults are lower and dropping faster for Kaiser Permanente members in Northern California than in the rest of the United States. Members with diabetes are seeing their heart risk factors improve, too, according to 2 recent studies in The American Journal of Medicine.
“These studies add to a growing body of evidence in support of Kaiser Permanente’s comprehensive approach to cardiovascular health, which combines high-quality preventive and therapeutic interventions,” said Jamal S. Rana, MD, PhD, chief of cardiology at Kaiser Permanente Oakland Medical Center and adjunct researcher at the Northern California Division of Research.
Stronger Hearts, Fewer Deaths
In one study, researchers found that heart disease death rates among adults aged 45 to 65 fell by nearly 50 percent in 3.2 million Kaiser Permanente members from 2000 to 2015, compared with almost 25 percent nationwide. Stroke-related deaths for the same age group fell by almost 56 percent among Kaiser Permanente members compared with a nationwide drop of 26 percent.
“Most heart disease and stroke-related deaths occur in people over 65, but mortality is still high for middle-aged members, so focusing on this vulnerable group could save many lives,” said lead author Stephen Sidney, MD, MPH, of the Division of Research.
The other study was a systematic assessment of Kaiser Permanente’s Preventing Heart Attacks and Strokes Everyday (or PHASE) program, launched across Northern California in 2004; the program uses a coordinated, population-based strategy to facilitate the appropriate use of a core set of medications, help individuals reach risk-factor treatment goals, and encourage lifestyle changes that improve heart health.
Because people with diabetes are at a greater risk of heart attack and stroke, the study looked at heart risk factors among people with diabetes in Kaiser Permanente Northern California. Under PHASE, the proportion of Kaiser Permanente diabetes patients with better blood pressure control consistently remained 20 percentage points higher than national rates, rising from 77 percent in 2007 to 82 percent in 2013, versus an increase from 57 percent to 62 percent in national reports. The study also showed consistently better blood pressure control and lipid levels among diabetes patients in Northern California.
Spreading the Word
Publishing study results is only the first step in transferring the heart-health strategies successfully implemented in Northern California to the community and beyond.
Kaiser Permanente is supporting community organizations across Northern California to expand the reach and scope of the PHASE program; to date more than 69 clinic sites are participating in PHASE, serving more than 179,800 people enrolled in the program.
“We think elements of Kaiser Permanente’s approach can be replicated by other health care systems to lower mortality rates and reduce cardiovascular risk factors,” Dr. Sidney said.
Kaiser Permanente endocrinologist Marc G. Jaffe, MD — who helped develop the PHASE program and is a co-author on both studies — is leading an effort to spread the word about heart-health strategies developed in Northern California with the initiative Resolve to Save Lives.
“We are excited to share our experiences with others who treat high-risk individuals, not only in California, but also across the world,” Dr. Jaffe said.