One in five fewer heart attacks in San Diego following county-wide collaboration

September 6, 2018

A RAND-UC Berkeley School of Public Health analysis demonstrates significant reductions in heart attacks in San Diego County over a 6-year period following a county-wide collaboration to prevent heart disease known as Be There San Diego. The findings were highlighted in the September issue of the journal, Health Affairs. The goal of Be There San Diego, a program founded by the School’s Right Care Initiative, was to share best practices to prevent heart attacks, strokes, and diabetic complications for vulnerable patients through the control of cholesterol, blood pressure, and blood sugar.

Heart disease is currently the number one cause of death in the United States, and the number two cause of death in San Diego County. Since 2010, clinical and community leaders have been collaborating to reduce heart attacks and strokes through county-wide reduction in risk factors focused on hypertension, cholesterol, and controlling blood sugar levels. State and local leaders that launched Be There San Diego brought the major health care provider groups in San Diego together to improve their approaches to lowering risk in the patients they served through adopting proven best practices such as monitoring blood pressure at home.

“We wanted to create a Heart Attack and Stroke Free Zone so that everyone can ‘be there’ for their loved ones,” says UCSD Cardiologist Dr. Anthony DeMaria, Be There San Diego chair.

The analysis—conducted by a collaborative group of researchers from the RAND Corporation, UC Berkeley, and Stanford University—found that, between 2011 and 2016, San Diego County’s total number of heart attacks decreased by 22 percent, compared to an 8 percent decrease in the rest of the state during the same time period. The researchers estimated this resulted in 3,826 fewer heart attacks in San Diego and thereby saved the healthcare system $86 million. Further, if these levels of performance had been achieved statewide over this period, over $930 million in hospital costs as well as 42,000 hospitalizations for heart attacks could have been avoided.

“These results show that a science-based health collaborative, like Be There San Diego, can improve outcomes while lowering costs,” says Allen Fremont MD, PhD, lead author at the RAND Corporation.

The collaborative was launched by the Right Care Initiative of the UC Berkeley School of Public Health and the UCLA Fielding School of Public Health in partnership with the California Department of Managed Health Care.

“The findings underscore the importance of longitudinal research to assess complex interventions,” says Hattie Hanley, director of the Right Care Initiative.

The research was supported by a grant from the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute.