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Another Voice: Medical team responding to cardiovascular alarm

By Al Hammonds and Michele Mercer

A recent story in The Buffalo News once again sounded the alarm on the high prevalence of cardiovascular disease across the Buffalo-Niagara region.

Using the State of American Well-Being’s 2015 community rankings, the story said, “the region ranked 16th-worst among 190 communities for reported incidents of heart attacks” and “six percent of Buffalo Niagara residents reported having a heart attack … giving the Buffalo area the worst percentage of any New York State community and far worse than upstate cities Syracuse and Rochester, which had heart attack percentages of less than 4 percent.”

Unfortunately, these current findings represent the repeat of alarms first sounded in a 2014 WNY Community Needs Assessment, which has served to prioritize regional health needs, including Delivery System Reform Incentive Payment (DSRIP) program initiatives currently being implemented by Millennium Collaborative Care.

As the performing provider system serving over 258,000 Medicaid clients across eight counties, Millennium is collaborating and partnering with physicians, health care providers and community-based organizations to fundamentally restructure the health care delivery system, and in the process, address the region’s most pressing health care needs. Among Millennium’s 11 DSRIP initiatives, the project titled “Evidence-Based Strategies for Disease Management” is aimed directly at our region’s cardiovascular disease challenges. This initiative includes:

• Implementation of the national best practice Million Hearts initiative in clinical care management sites, including prescribing aspirin (when appropriate), managing blood pressure, treatment of LDL cholesterol using statin therapy and addressing smoking cessation.

• Deploying practice transformation specialists who are focusing on working with safety net primary care practices, including federally qualified health centers to implement cardiovascular program requirements.

• Working with the New York State Quitline Team at Roswell Park Cancer Institute and Health Systems Change Center along with the Community Partners of Western New York to identify effective ways to refer clients to the Quitline.

• Partnering with the Greater Buffalo United Ministries, the University at Buffalo School of Nursing and Dr. Kenneth Gayles, vice president of the Greater Buffalo United Accountable Healthcare Network, to bring Million Hearts interventions out to the community. To date, seven blood pressure screening events have been hosted.

While these are just a few of the evidence-based strategies for cardiovascular disease management being implemented under Millennium’s project, the message is that while the challenge is great and the alarms continue to sound, the regional community should know a collaborative, long-term response has been underway.

Al Hammonds is executive director and Michele Mercer, R.N., is chief clinical integration officer at Millennium Collaborative Care in Buffalo.

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