National Heart Health Initiative Empowers Black Adults

For more than 90 years, cardiovascular disease (CVD) has been the number one cause of death in the United States—with Black adults dying from heart disease at a rate two times higher than White adults and more likely to experience risk factors such as hypertension, diabetes, obesity and high cholesterol.

Despite these public health trends, heart disease is largely preventable through small lifestyle changes, like being physically active and managing hypertension.

Though Black adults report high awareness of the health disparities and negative health trends that impact their communities, hundreds of focus groups with Black adults conducted by the CDC Foundation revealed fatigue over negative health statistics and the need for a new approach that showcased the promise and joy of living, instead of the threat of dying.

(Pictured left to right) CDC employee Trayce Leak joins CDC Foundation’s Ginger Williford in distributing heart-healthy smoothies at the Xavier University HBCU Homecoming event in New Orleans, LA

Fitness influencer Toya Johnson leads a free physical fitness workshop during the “Live to the Beat” American Heart Month event in Atlanta, GA

CDC employee Trayce Leak helps promote “Live to the Beat” campaign health education resources at the Spelman Alumna HBCU Homecoming event in Atlanta, GA

In 2022, with the support of donors Amgen and Bayer, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)’s Division for Heart Disease and Stroke Prevention and the CDC Foundation launched the “Live to the Beat” campaign. The campaign is one of many communications initiatives from the Alliance for Million Hearts®, a public-private coalition convened by the CDC Foundation to help the Million Hearts® initiative achieve its goal of preventing one million heart attacks, strokes and other cardiovascular events by 2027 through national communication campaigns.

“Live to the Beat” is a national effort that aims to educate, equip and empower Black adults ages 34-54 with the heart-healthy information, tools, resources and messages needed to reduce their risk of heart attack and stroke. Informed by the Black community for the Black community, the “Live to the Beat” campaign focuses on empathy, authentic representation and sharing small-step solutions for building daily habits.

In February 2022, “Live to the Beat” launched with a virtual dance party hosted by DJ Jazzy Jeff. As the first national campaign developed to prevent the risk of CVD among Black adults ages 35-54, this multi-media effort has leveraged social media, national paid media, events at historically Black colleges and universities and the National Association of Black Journalists convention, TV public service announcements and collaboration with social media influencers to engage and empower audiences.

While the statistics point to cause for concern, now we understand the great opportunity we have to empower more Black adults who are at risk for CVD.

“It’s difficult to accept one condition leading to hundreds of thousands of deaths, but it is especially difficult when those are hundreds of thousands of preventable deaths,” said Dr. Lisa Waddell, former chief medical officer for the CDC Foundation. “While the statistics point to cause for concern, now we understand the great opportunity we have to empower more Black adults who are at risk for CVD.”

Early data from this effort has shown promise. In its first eight months, the campaign generated more than 407 million media impressions across web, social media, TV and radio platforms. The campaign’s first quarterly national survey tracker found Black adults ages 35-54 were 7 percent more likely to agree that making small changes can lower their risk for heart disease, 8 percent more likely to agree that they can overcome challenges that make it harder to live a healthy lifestyle and 7 percent more motivated to take steps to maintain or improve heart health.

In addition to these promising data, “Live to the Beat” was selected by the PRWeek Purpose Awards, a major public relations and communication industry journal, in the Best Health campaign category.

CDC’s Division for Heart Disease and Stroke Prevention and the CDC Foundation look forward to accelerating and expanding this work in 2023 with the launch of a community ambassadors’ program and the ongoing development of fresh and creative campaigns to raise awareness about the threat of cardiovascular disease. To learn more, visit:

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