New York State Programs and Tools to Address Cardiovascular Health

Healthy Heart Program

The Healthy Heart Program (HHP) works to reduce cardiovascular disease illness and death by making it easier for people to engage in healthy behaviors. Most people know that being physically active and eating fruits and vegetables is good for their health, but where they live may make it hard to do those things.

The environment in which people live, work, play and receive health care affects health-related behaviors. The HHP works to create environments where people can be physically active, eat healthy foods, and receive evidence-based health care. Sample interventions include:

  • making communities more walkable (for example, having sidewalks, identified crosswalks on street corners, and walking trails),
  • opening schools after hours for community use,
  • establishing community gardens,
  • implementing worksite wellness programs,
  • making it safer for children to walk and bike to school,
  • improving care for people with cardiovascular disease.
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Worksite Sector:

About 60 percent of adults work and spend much of their day at the worksite. The HHP funds agencies to increase opportunities for physical activity and healthy eating at worksites. Supports for heart health at worksites can be assessed by Heart Check – a survey tool developed by the New York State HHP. Heart Check helps identify areas needing improvement. Sample changes include:

  • new programs and facilities for physical activity during the workday (for example, stretching class at lunch, and exercise room on-site);
  • subsidies for health club membership;
  • healthful food options in vending machines, cafeterias and at company events
  • walking groups;
  • providing health risk assessments, and
  • farmers markets at the worksite.

School Sector:

Most children over the age of five years attend school. School should be a place where it is easy for children to be physically active and eat healthy foods. The HHP funds agencies to help schools make healthy changes. A first step at each school is starting a wellness work group representing teachers, staff, parents and students to conduct the School Health Index (SHI). The SHI is an assessment tool developed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that identifies areas for improvement. The school wellness workgroup addresses areas identified in the SHI. Sample changes include:

  • serving only healthful foods in the cafeteria, school stores and vending machines;
  • not using food as a reward or withholding food as a punishment;
  • healthy classroom snack policies;
  • adding physical activity to classroom activities;
  • improving physical education classes;
  • school vegetable gardens, and
  • more students walking to school – to learn more about students walking and bicycling to school, visit the National Center for Safe Routes to School.

To learn more about making the school environment healthier, visit the New York State Healthy Eating and Physical Activity Alliance.

Community Sector

A supportive environment is critical in helping people be healthy. The HHP funds agencies to work in neighborhoods, towns and cities to make it easier for people to be physically active and eat healthy foods. Sample changes include:

  • walking and bicycling trails;
  • safer intersections for pedestrians;
  • adding physical activity to after-school programs;
  • low-fat milk available in grocery stores, restaurants and schools;
  • farmers markets and community gardens;
  • neighborhood parks; and
  • healthier menu selections in restaurants – smaller portion sizes, lower prices for healthful items, calorie posting.

The easiest physical activity for most people is walking. The HHP helps communities to make it easier for people to walk.

People are more likely to walk when sidewalks are in good repair, they have destinations to walk to, intersections are safe, cars go at slow speeds, and walking routes are attractive.

There is a national Complete Streets movement to help ensure that all users are included in transportation planning. This means that whether people are pedestrians, using a wheel chair, walker or stroller, taking the bus, or driving, there is a safe place for them in the transportation system.

To learn more about making it easier to be physically active and eat healthful foods, visit Active Living by Design Research.

Health Care Sector

People with cardiovascular disease risk factors like hypertension (high blood pressure) and hyperlipidemia (high blood cholesterol) need evidence-based health care to help manage their conditions. The HHP partners with different groups to help people receive the care they need.

Stroke Awareness:

The HHP works to improve the treatment of ischemic strokes in New York. The HHP developed a media campaign to educate residents about the importance of early recognition of signs and symptoms of stroke and the importance of calling 911 as the first steps for timely and effective treatment. A pilot campaign began in the Capital Region in fall 2006. The evaluation showed that the campaign effectively increased the percentage of people who would call 9-1-1 for symptoms of stroke. The HHP is making the campaign materials available for use by Designated Stroke Centers and regional stroke task forces throughout the state. For stroke campaign materials, visit the Healthy Heart Program Stroke Publication Order Form page.

Self Management Support:

People with chronic illnesses, including cardiovascular disease, spend only a fraction of their time directly engaged with the health care system to manage their chronic illness. Most of the time, people with chronic illness must manage their illness on their own by making lifestyle choices daily that support healthy living. Many people need training and support in chronic disease self management to successfully live with their chronic illness. The HHP is working with health insurance plans to help them train patients on disease self management. To learn more about chronic disease self management, visit Stanford Chronic Disease Self Management.