Heart-failure helpline could be “difference maker” for turning disease into a manageable condition

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The National Forum for Heart Disease & Stroke Prevention has launched the Stronger Hearts Helpline, a 24/7 free call-centre resource for people with heart failure and their families. The pilot programme is an addition to an existing hotline in San Bernardino County, USA, where nearly 20% of Medicare recipients are being treated for heart failure. Long-term plans are to expand the service nationwide.

Heart-failure rates in San Bernardino County are among the highest in California, an impetus for the area being chosen as the Stronger Hearts pilot location. The Stronger Hearts Helpline serves all residents of San Bernardino County but is specifically designed for people with heart failure, their families and/or caregivers and healthcare professionals.

“Where people live, work, learn and play has great bearing on their health and on the type of daily health care they receive,” said National Forum Executive Director John Clymer. “Through Stronger Hearts, we hope to further prove the power of a combined, centralized health service like this 2-1-1 helpline. The National Forum appreciates the efforts of our many national members, as well as the San Bernardino community groups that helped make the Stronger Hearts Helpline possible.”

“Many people with heart failure do not fully understand the intricacies of the disease; to them, it may sound like a death sentence,” said Maxwell Ohikhuare, health officer for the San Bernardino County Department of Public Health. “The Stronger Hearts Helpline will give them easier access to information that can help them take control of their condition and stay healthier longer. I am thrilled that the National Forum chose our community to pilot this important resource.”

Heart failure affects more than 5.1 million people in the USA. The healthcare costs are significant, especially when patients end up hospitalised for problems that could have been prevented, and the toll on quality of life and longevity is substantial. Nationwide, heart-failure treatment and complications account for more than US$30.7bn in spending annually, a sizable portion of the overall cost burden of cardiovascular disease.

“The more patients know about heart failure and how to manage it-and the more access they have to supportive resources-the more successful they will be in staying as healthy as possible,” said Clyde W Yancy, chief of the Division of Cardiology and associate director of the Bluhm Cardiovascular Institute at the Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine & Northwestern Memorial Hospital. “The healthcare community has known for a long time that something different is needed to help our patients with heart failure. The Stronger Hearts Helpline might very well be the difference maker for those with heart failure and their care providers.”

Yancy chairs the National Forum heart-failure task force that created the Stronger Hearts Helpline. The task force is a collection of dedicated heath care advocates and professionals, each of whom brings a unique set of attributes that have come together in this first of several approaches to deal with this illness. The National Forum is a non-profit organisation whose mission is to build a collective voice for a heart-healthy and stroke-free society through collaborative policy and programmatic efforts.