Joint initiative to tackle cancer, diabetes, heart disease and stroke

Three of the nation’s leading not-for-profit health agencies today announced a joint initiative to empower Americans to help lower their risk of cancer, diabetes, heart disease and stroke by following a single set of recommendations. Combined, the four chronic diseases account for nearly two out of every three deaths in the United States.  

This is the first time the American Cancer Society, American Diabetes Association and American Heart Association have come together to provide unified health recommendations for the public and joint screening advice for physicians.

“Everyday Choices For A Healthier Life” is a three-year advocacy, public and professional education campaign based on four preventive strategies, as described in a scientific statement published jointly in the rapid access issue of Circulation: Journal of the American Heart Association (June 15, 2004), Diabetes Care (July 2004) and the American Cancer Society’s CA: A Cancer Journal for Clinicians (July/August 2004).

Physicians and healthcare providers play a pivotal role in their ability to influence prevention and screening practices among their patients. The organizations have collectively mapped out general prevention and screening recommendations for all average-risk adults that should guide healthcare provider recommendations to their patients. 

The recommendations are:

  • Consume a healthy diet as a key component to achieving and maintaining a healthy body weight
  • Be physically active
  • Don’t smoke, and avoid tobacco smoke
  • See a physician to assess your personal health risks

“Poor diet, excess body weight, physical inactivity and smoking are modifiable risk factors that contribute to the premature death of close to 1.5 million Americans from cancer, diabetes, heart disease and stroke each year,” said Augustus O. Grant, M.D., Ph.D., F.A.H.A., president of the American Heart Association and professor of medicine at DukeUniversityMedicalCenterin Durham, N.C.

“We named our campaign “Everyday Choices For A Healthier Life” because many people may not know there are choices they can make every day to protect themselves from all of these diseases,” said Grant.

“Follow a healthy diet, achieve and maintain a healthy body weight, become more physically active and avoid tobacco smoke. These steps can become a part of your daily life, and can help protect you and your family from cancer, diabetes, heart disease and stroke,” said Ralph B. Vance, M.D., F.A.C.P., national president of the American Cancer Society and professor of medicine at University of Mississippi Medical Center.

The three organizations have not changed their dietary or lifestyle recommendations. Instead, they are working together to let the public know that they agree on a basic set of lifestyle changes and unified screening recommendations to the public, physicians and legislators.

“Healthcare costs are climbing steadily, but the national investment in prevention was recently estimated at less than five percent of the total annual health care expenditures,” said Eugene Barrett, M.D., Ph.D., president of the American Diabetes Association andprofessor of medicine and pediatrics at the University of Virginia, and director of the University of Virginia's Diabetes Center.

“We plan to pool our expertise and resources to encourage greater collaborative efforts among federal and state governments, private healthcare providers, insurers and policymakers to increase the funding and opportunities for prevention,” said Barrett.

The three-year public education campaign kicks off with a series of public service announcements produced by Publicis New York with support from The Advertising Council. The multimedia campaign is targeted primarily to women ages 30 to 50 (considered the primary “health-influencers”), and urges Americans to “protect yourself from yourself,” by making healthier everyday choices. The campaign features television and radio ads in both English and Spanish, and print ads that will appear in magazines and newspapers across the country.

A free educational brochure has been developed to give the public information they need to help protect themselves from cancer, diabetes, heart disease and stroke. The brochure is available by calling, toll-free, 1-866-399-6789.

A new, joint Web site, www.everydaychoices.org, features helpful tips and links to more information on healthy eating, physical activity, weight management, smoking cessation and recommended medical tests. 

Routine medical care can help prevent disease and save lives. The three agencies have developed screening guidelines for identification and control of risk factors and early detection of diseases and are working to promote these unified guidelines to physicians:

Men & Women

  • Blood pressure measurement: Starting at age 20, each regular healthcare visit, at least every two years
  • Body Mass Index (BMI) measurement: Starting at age 20, each regular healthcare visit
  • Blood cholesterol test: Starting at age 20, at least every five years
  • Blood glucose (sugar) test: Starting at age 45, every three years
  • Colorectal screening: Starting at age 50, every 1-10 years depending on the test your doctor uses

Women

  • Clinical breast exam (CBE): Starting at age 20, every three years; yearly after age 40
  • Mammography: Starting at age 40, yearly
  • Pap test: Starting at age 20, yearly
  • After age 30, every one to three years, depending on the test your doctor uses and past results

Men

  • Prostate specific antigen test and digital rectal exam: Starting at age 50 ask your doctor about the pros and cons of testing

“Too many Americans still smoke cigarettes and are physically inactive, and the prevalence of overweight and obesity in adults has risen to 65 percent,” said Grant. “These are all factors that are strong contributing risk factors for stroke, heart disease, diabetes and many cancers,” Vance said. Barrett added, “Protect yourself and those you love with common-sense everyday choices for a healthier life.”

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