HHS boosts effort to fight heart disease

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The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) on Tuesday announced $112 million in grants aimed at helping doctors at smaller practices fight heart disease, the leading cause of death in the U.S.

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The grants will be used to create regional groups of experts who will provide assistance to smaller practices, which tend to have fewer resources than large organizations. 

“By targeting smaller practices, we have a unique opportunity to reduce cardiovascular risk factors for hundreds of thousands of patients,” HHS Secretary Sylvia Mathews Burwell said in a statement.

HHS says the initiative will help 5,000 primary care doctors who serve 8 million patients. 

The teams of experts will give doctors coaching, as well as help with electronic medical records, a common source of complaints from doctors who consider them time-consuming and difficult to use.

The grants will go to seven regions identified as being underserved. HHS describes the targeted groups as “Native Americans in Oklahoma, Hispanics in New Mexico and Colorado, medically underserved communities in New York City and the Chicago Tri-State region, and rural communities in the Pacific Northwest, Virginia, and North Carolina.”

About 610,000 people die of heart disease every year in the U.S., according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. That’s 1 in every 4 deaths.

The goal is to keep doctors up to date on the latest evidence on fighting heart disease through an plan known as the ABCS: aspirin use by people at high-risk, blood pressure control, cholesterol management and smoking cessation.