Two UK Faculty Help Draft Policy Statement for the American Heart Association

University of Kentucky’s Dr. Larry Goldstein and Donna Arnett, Ph.D., took part in drafting a policy statement that was published in the American Heart Association’s (AHA) flagship journal Circulation this month.

The statement was intended to provide a thorough review of the scientific underpinnings of the AHA’s public advocacy strategies as they pertain to the association's 2020 Strategic Impact Goals, which target a 10-year 20 percent improvement in the cardiovascular health of all Americans and a 20 percent reduction in deaths from cardiovascular disease and stroke.

"Our goal was to assist the AHA in determining how well the best available science aligns with the AHA’s public policy goals and identify research opportunities that would help fill gaps and support their further development," said Goldstein, the paper's co-lead author.

According to Arnett, the consensus was that there was generally close alignment between current policy and the 2020 metrics; however, some policies require a more robust evidence base.

"We were particularly concerned about cardiovascular health metrics by age, which currently are divided into just two groups: children up to age 20 and adults," Arnett said. "Since there are important differences in policy needs for infants, children, adolescents, and young adults, we'd like to see research that informs policy for each of these subgroups."

The intent of the AHA 2020 Impact Goals is to improve epidemiological factors (physical activity, healthy diet, tobacco use, and healthy weight) that contribute to cardiovascular health and refine clinical response (improved acute care processes and secondary prevention therapies) to prevent and treat cardiovascular disease and stroke.

Policies stemming from these goals include efforts to promote smoking cessation, improve BMI, reduce consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages, and encourage behaviors that promote healthy cholesterol, blood pressure and glucose levels.

"We hope that this intensive review will aid in translation and implementation of current policies, provide a roadmap to expand and strengthen the evidence base for the development of new policies, and help evaluate their overall impact in terms of targeted improvements in population health," said Goldstein.

With more than 35 years of practice, Goldstein is the chair of the University of Kentucky's Department of Neurology and co-director of the Kentucky Neuroscience Institute. He served as the co-chair of the writing group, providing his expertise on how evidence-based research can help public health organizations realize their organizational goals and policies.

As a transformative leader with core values of excellence, Arnett serves as dean of the UK College of Public Health and is also the former president of the American Heart Association. Her professional efforts have focused on bringing public health, medicine and other health-related disciplines closer together to improve population health.

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