CDC Foundation Launches New Public-Private Coalition for National Campaign to Confront Nation’s #1 Killer – Cardiovascular Disease

COVID-19 has exposed public health vulnerabilities through its connection to underlying medical conditions—chief among these is cardiovascular disease, which remains the leading cause of death in the United States even during the pandemic. There is a relationship between COVID-19 and cardiovascular disease: deaths from heart disease and stroke have increased during the pandemic, according to a report in the Journal of the American Medical Association. Furthermore, the potential long-term effects of COVID-19 on cardiovascular disease are unknown at this time. Today, the CDC Foundation announced a new coalition to get ahead of this threat with a campaign to empower more adults to prevent heart disease and strokes.

Pandemic or not, researchers estimated 20 years ago that as much as 80 percent of coronary heart disease and 70 percent of strokes can be avoided with healthy lifestyle behaviors, as reported in a New England Journal of Medicine study. While mortality rates have declined for decades, a report by CDC researchers shows those declines have slowed in the last 10 years, particularly among African Americans and adults between ages 25–64.

The campaign is supported by the “Alliance for the Million Hearts® Campaign,” a newly formed public-private coalition to help fuel the Million Hearts® Initiative toward its goal of preventing at least one million heart attacks, strokes and cardiovascular events by 2022. The national campaign will focus on helping more people understand their personal risk for heart disease and stroke, believe in their power to change it and take steps that lower their risks. Amgen and Bayer are funders for the campaign; the FH Foundation and the National Association of Chronic Disease Directors (NACDD) have joined the Alliance as the first community partners.

“In addition to being leading causes of death in the United States, heart disease and stroke are also leading contributors to ill-health and disability, as many people who experience a cardiac or stroke event can attest. COVID-19 has shown us that we can no longer accept the status quo with public health battles we can, and should, win,” said Judy Monroe, MD, president and CEO of the CDC Foundation. “Because we know we can do more working together to confront cardiovascular disease, we are proud to have Amgen, Bayer, the FH Foundation and the National Association of Chronic Disease Directors as partners who are equally committed to this vision and the potential to make a real difference.”

“Public health and medical communities have been fighting cardiovascular disease for a long time, making tangible progress along the way. But we are seeing some concerning plateaus and even some declines in that progress,” said Laurence Sperling, MD, executive director of Million Hearts® in the Division for Heart Disease and Stroke Prevention at CDC. “We can’t rely solely on what we have done in the past. We need innovative strategies to engage the American population in ways that will drive meaningful action.”

The solutions for preventing cardiovascular disease seem simple—including understanding your family history, managing high blood pressure and high cholesterol, staying physically active, maintaining a healthy diet and quitting smoking—but they are not always easy. That is why the CDC Foundation is activating this national campaign with the help of leading organizations and thought leaders.

Leading up to the campaign launch in 2021, the CDC Foundation will engage additional partners as key participants in the Alliance, including organizations that collaborate with CDC, like public health and nonprofit organizations, as well as nontraditional partners, like consumer brands and cultural influencers.

The “Alliance for the Million Hearts® Campaign” has committed to co-create this prevention campaign with people directly connected to and impacted by cardiovascular disease. Below are some of those voices speaking on behalf of the Alliance partners:

On behalf of Amgen—“For a couple of years after my heart attack, I lived in fear that it might happen again. Then I decided to take control of my health. My cardiologist told me that it was important to lower my bad cholesterol and that it would make things better in the long run, so I changed my lifestyle. I adjusted my diet, and I started to exercise with my husband, an avid walker. My doctor told me that my cholesterol was one of the most important risk factors associated with another heart attack, so he put me on a treatment plan that works for me. This campaign will help reach and empower more people before they have a heart attack. That’s something to celebrate.”—Laurie W., 62, from Thousand Oaks, CA.

On behalf of Bayer—“I’m a very lucky guy who’s alive today despite ignoring too many warning signs. Ten years ago, I had a quadruple coronary artery bypass graft procedure that saved my life. Had it not been for a relatively routine test before a knee surgery, I probably would not have known that my main coronary artery was 99 percent blocked and at least three others were 80–90 percent blocked. This chance discovery likely saved my life, but I know there are many more who were not as lucky. That’s why I believe in this Million Hearts® communication campaign and this chance we have to help reach, and save, more lives.”—Bill Holsten, 64.

On behalf of FH Foundation—“I almost lost my husband when he was 27 because of a heart attack. The damage to his heart left him with heart failure just a few years later. We spent years searching for answers only to discover Chad’s high cholesterol was caused by a genetic condition, called familial hypercholesterolemia (FH). We know now that risk factors for heart disease can be inherited, causing generations to lose family members too early in life. Now we know our son also inherited FH, so managing his cholesterol and other risk factors has become the most important thing we can do to greatly reduce his risk for heart disease. Campaigns like this one are important to raise awareness that heart disease really is preventable and to empower more people with the knowledge and resources they need to take action.”—Kristen Gradney, MHA, RDN, LDN

On behalf of NACDD—“Saving one million lives from heart attacks and strokes begins with conversations, one heart at a time. People want to do the right thing for their health and their family’s security, however, they do not always have the means and tools to do it. As a physician, I see firsthand how having a conversation with patients and their families to identify their barriers, working with them to develop steps to overcome them, and being their champion along their journey is the premise of preventive health. State health staff, who work both with healthcare workers and within the community are also critical to this success. Coalitions like this one help bring providers and state health staff to the table with other key stakeholders to build a diverse strategy that can work.” Bala Murugan, MD, DrPH, acting chief medical officer and state chronic disease director, Arkansas Department of Health.

To learn more about the “Alliance for the Million Hearts® Campaign,” visit To learn more about opportunities to join the Alliance, email

About Million Hearts® 2022

Million Hearts® 2022 is a national initiative co-led by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) external icon to prevent 1 million heart attacks and strokes within 5 years. It focuses on a small set of priorities selected for their ability to reduce heart disease, stroke, and related conditions. CDC’s Division for Heart Disease and Stroke Prevention provides leadership and support for the Million Hearts® initiative, which began in 2012. The agency collaborates extensively with CMS, sets priorities, and leads the communications, partnership development, research, translation, and evaluation efforts for the initiative.