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J Public Health Policy. 1993 Winter;14(4):437-62.

Realistic outcomes: lessons from community-based research and demonstration programs for the prevention of cardiovascular diseases.

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Department of Public Health Sciences, Bowman Gray School of Medicine, Winston-Salem, NC 27157-1063.


Public health departments nation-wide are implementing community-based cardiovascular disease (CVD) prevention programs. Many such programs are turning for guidance to three research and demonstration projects: the Stanford Five City Project, the Pawtucket Heart Health Program, and the Minnesota Heart Health Program. This article summarizes some of the lessons learned in these projects and recommends strategies for the new generation of CVD prevention programs. The core of a successful program is the community organization process. This involves identification and activation of key community leaders, stimulation of citizens and organizations to volunteer time and offer resources to CVD prevention, and the promotion of prevention as a community theme. A wide range of intervention settings are available for health promotion. As is true for the workplace, places of worship are receptive to health promotion programs and have access to large numbers of people. Mass media are effective when used in conjunction with complementary messages delivered through other channels, such as school programs, adult education programs, and self-help programs. Community health professionals play a vital role in providing program endorsement and stimulating the participation of other community leaders. School-based programs promote long-term behavior change and reach beyond the school to actively involve parents. Innovative health promotion contests have widespread appeal and promote participation in other community interventions. In the area of evaluation, health program participation rates are appropriate primary outcome measures in most community-oriented prevention programs. Other program evaluation priorities include community analysis and formative evaluation, providing data to fine-tune interventions and define the needs and preferences of the community. It is premature to comment conclusively on the effectiveness of community-based CVD prevention programs in reducing population risk factor levels. However, it has been demonstrated that a broad range of intervention strategies can favorably modify the health behaviors of specific groups in communities such as employees and school children.

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