Heart-health report cards reduce risk

November 1, 2007

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Heart-health report cards and follow-up phone counselling significantly reduced the risk of heart disease and stroke among participants in an SFU/Fraser Health study.

SFU gerontology chair Andrew Wister and a team of researchers from Fraser Health conducted the multi-year study to see whether people at high risk of cardiovascular disease might benefit from one-on-one counselling after receiving a report card assessing and explaining their health risks.

The study is part of an over-all initiative aimed at finding low-cost, community-based healthcare programs that lower heart and stroke risks.

Researchers carried out interventions with half of the study’s 611 participants in the treatment groups, aged 45–64 and living in the Fraser Health Region. They and their physicians received a health report card detailing risks related to their physical condition and health status. Ten days later, these participants received follow-up phone calls from one of two lifestyle counsellors who discussed the reports and encouraged participants to set goals that included exercising, losing weight and lowering blood pressure. They followed up with further calls every six months.

The other half of the study’s participants served as the control group, receiving usual care.

The result after one year of the intervention, say researchers, was a "statistically significant" reduction in global cardiovascular risk compared to the control group. Wister says blood pressure and cholesterol dropped the most among the components of the global risk score. He also says that "individuals began making better nutritional choices and were more confident about their health."

The study results point to the possibility of saving money by instituting more pro-active health-care initiatives. That’s why the study will continue until 2009, with researchers continuing to track and monitor study participants and calculate any medical cost-savings generated by the study’s interventions.

"If you reduce the number of angioplasties and other major cardiovascular surgeries — even if you reduce a very small percentage — there is a significant cost saving since they are extremely expensive," notes Wister.

He next plans to see how much impact a web-based counselling and report card system with a telephone/Internet coach will have on cardiovascular risk reduction.

The study’s first-year results appeared in the Oct. 9 issue of the Canadian Medical Association Journal.

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