The Y Joins CDC, HHS and CMS in Million Hearts Initiative

YMCA of the USA announces commitment to expand efforts to help reduce heart disease and stroke

CHICAGO, September 13, 2011 The Y announced its support of the Million Hearts Initiative – an initiative spearheaded by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services that aims to prevent one million heart attacks and strokes over the next five years – at an event today in Washington, D.C.

Million Hearts strives to empower all Americans to make healthy choices as well as improve care for people who need treatment.  The initiative will focus on the “ABCS” – Aspirin for people at risk, Blood pressure control, Cholesterol management and Smoking cessation – which address the major risk factors for cardiovascular disease and can help to prevent heart attacks and strokes. 

The Y’s commitment to the Million Hearts Initiative is to increase the availability of the YMCA’s Diabetes Prevention Program – which is part of the CDC-lead National Diabetes Prevention Program and expand they Y’s Healthier Communities efforts. 

“As a leading nonprofit for improving America’s health, the Y is committed to helping more people take steps to prevent chronic disease, allowing them to live longer, healthier lives,” said Jonathan Lever, the vice president for health strategies and innovation for YMCA of the USA.

“We know that the root causes of many chronic diseases are unhealthy behaviors, such as physical inactivity, unhealthy eating and tobacco use. The Y’s deep reach into more than 10,000 communities allows us to uniquely provide people, programs and emotional support that are proven in enabling individuals and communities to improve their health and well-being.”      

The Y is addressing type 2 diabetes as part of its Million Hearts commitment because it is a major risk factor for cardiovascular disease:  people with diabetes are twice as likely to have heart disease or a stroke than those who do not have it and according to the American Diabetes Association, two of three people with type 2 diabetes will die of heart disease or stroke.  In addition, the behaviors that have been proven to reduce diabetes risk – increased physical activity and moderate weight loss – also have an impact on lowering blood pressure and cholesterol.

 In fact, 30 percent of the participants in the original NIH-led National Diabetes Prevention Program trial – on which the YMCA’s Diabetes Prevention Program is based – avoided being prescribed medicine for high blood pressure, and 25% avoided anti-cholesterol medication. And people with prediabetes involved in the intervention reduced their incidence of diabetes by 58 percent. Currently the program is offered through 43 Ys at 170 locations in 23 states and expansion will continue over the next few years. 

In addition to helping individuals change behaviors through this evidence-based program, the Y will also continue to be an advocate and catalyst for policy change to make the healthy choice the easy choice in communities all across the country.  

The Y’s Healthier Communities Initiatives has engaged leaders in more than 200 communities to assess and improve community environments to promote healthy living through strategies that increase opportunities for healthy eating, help people get more physically active and breathe air free of smoke. 

“The Y is committed to helping the Million Hearts Initiative reach its goal – and we are confident that we can do so,” said Lever.  “With nearly 160 years of promoting health and well-being, the Y is an unmatched community-based resource for preventing chronic disease.  We look forward to working with HHS, CDC, CMS and others to prevent help prevent one million heart attacks and strokes in five years.”

Learn more about the YMCA’s Diabetes Prevention Program at

Learn more about Million Hearts at Opens a new window


About the Y

The Y is one of the nation’s leading nonprofits strengthening communities through youth development, healthy living and social responsibility. Across the U.S., 2,687 Ys engage 21 million men, women and children – regardless of age, income or background – to nurture the potential of children and teens, improve the nation’s health and well-being, and provide opportunities to give back and support neighbors. Anchored in more than 10,000 communities, the Y has the long-standing relationships and physical presence not just to promise, but to deliver, lasting personal and social change.

Kelly Kennai
YMCA of the USA
202 835 9043

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

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