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Million Hearts

September 13, 2011
Washington, DC

Remarks as prepared for delivery

Thank you Dean Goldman, for that kind introduction and for welcoming us so warmly here today.

I want to thank all of our outstanding partners for joining us here today, on stage and in the audience – but more importantly for your partnership and commitment to this critical initiative.

With 2 million heart attacks and strokes a year, and 800,000 deaths, just about all of us have been touched by someone who has had heart disease or a stroke.

Heart disease takes the lives of far too many people in this country – depriving their families and their communities of someone they love and care for – a father, a mother, a husband, a wife, a friend or a neighbor. Each loss deprives our society of their fullest contribution, their creativity and productivity.

This is particularly tragic because we know that most heart attacks and strokes can be prevented with simple, low-cost care available to us today.

But the sad truth is, too many people who need that preventive care don’t get it. A major goal for this Administration is to change that for the better.

This isn’t just a human tragedy; it’s also a huge drain on our economy.

Cardiovascular disease costs our nation $444 billion every year in medical costs and lost productivity. That’s $1.2 billion a day. Treating heart disease and stroke accounts for about 1 out of every $6 we spend on health care in this country.

We are paying much too high a price. Together, we must do better.

So today we are launching an initiative we call Million Hearts, a joint effort by leaders in the public and private sectors to address this critical need. By improving prevention and improving care, we hope to prevent one million heart attacks and strokes over the next 5 years.

This is an ambitious initiative but it is so very necessary. Achieving our goal will be both easy and hard.

It’s easy because we already know the key steps we can take to improve our nation’s heart health.

We call them the ABCs. That’s aspirin to prevent heart attacks for people who need it, blood pressure and cholesterol control, and quitting smoking.

We also know the importance of empowering Americans to make healthy choices such as improving nutrition and reducing excess sodium, a major contributor to high blood pressure.

Our goal is hard because focusing on prevention means focusing on things that don’t happen. When prevention succeeds, it’s invisible.

But we are making it the focus of Million Hearts because we know that the most effective way to save the lives lost to heart disease and stroke is to prevent them from happening in the first place.

In several ways, we are already working to improve the care people receive so that patients can spend more time with their doctors, and so that their caregivers can work with each other to provide the very best care.

Million Hearts builds on these efforts.

Within the federal government, the effort will be co-led by Dr. Tom Frieden who heads the CDC and Dr. Don Berwick who runs Medicare and Medicaid, and you’ll hear from both of them in a few minutes about the steps their agencies are taking.

I’m also delighted to recognize Dr. Janet Wright, a distinguished cardiologist, who has been selected to lead this initiative. Dr. Wright is joining us from the American College of Cardiology, where she has been Senior Vice President for Science and Quality.

Our whole department is putting its weight behind Million Hearts.

But I want to stress that our commitment is just one part of this campaign.

Today, many of our partners are joining us, not just to endorse Million Hearts, but also to help lead it.

By bringing their ingenuity, their resources, and their leadership to this effort we will have a much greater impact than if the government acted alone. I am grateful to the leaders who share this stage today and I call on others to join our effort.

We have had the science and the tools to fight heart disease and stroke for a long time.

Today, we have an unprecedented commitment from partners across the government, and across society, to put those tools to use like never before.

Million Hearts is a change in how both the government and the private sector will deal with heart disease, and it could literally save your life or the life of someone you love.

Now, I want to kick off our program by sharing a very short video. As we launch Million Hearts today, it paints a stunning picture of just what is at stake.

[Million Hearts is a trademark of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.]