Chapel Hill NC (May 26, 2015) – The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and a cooperative team of health care and quality improvement experts were recently awarded a $15M federal grant from the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) to help primary care practices use the latest evidence to improve the heart health of millions of Americans. UNC’s Heart Health Now! Advancing Heart Health in NC Primary Care project is one of seven grantees awarded as part of the AHRQ initiative, EvidenceNOW – Advancing Heart Health in Primary Care, which supports the broad U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) effort for Better Care, Smarter Spending, and Healthier People, and is aligned with the Departments’ Million Hearts® national initiative to prevent heart attacks and strokes.

“The goal of the EvidenceNOW initiative is to give primary care practices the support they need to help patients live healthier and longer,” said HHS Secretary Sylvia M. Burwell. “By targeting smaller practices, we have a unique opportunity to reduce cardiovascular risk factors for hundreds of thousands of patients, and learn what kind of support results in better patient outcomes.”

Heart disease is the leading cause of death for men and women in the United States. In North Carolina, the latest data show an annual cardiovascular death rate of 263 per 100,000, explaining almost one-third of deaths in the state, more than any other cause. To successfully prevent heart attacks it is critical that health care professionals work with patients to adopt the ABCS of cardiovascular prevention: Aspirin use by high risk individuals, Blood pressure control, Cholesterol management, and Smoking cessation. New evidence is continually evolving about how to best deliver the ABCS. The goal of this initiative is to ensure that primary care practices have the evidence they need and use it to help patients live healthier and longer.

As part of the EvidenceNOW- Advancing Heart Health in Primary Care, Heart Health Now! is composed of public and private partnerships and multidisciplinary teams of experts that will recruit and engage 250-300 small, independent primary care practices and provide quality improvement services typically not available to them because of their size. These services include onsite practice facilitation and coaching, expert consultation, shared learning collaboratives, and electronic health record support.

“I’ve cared for many people throughout my career who suffered the debilitating effects of a heart attack or stroke way too early,” said Sam Cykert, MD, professor of medicine, Division of General Internal Medicine and director of the Program on Health and Clinical Infomatics at UNC-Chapel Hill. “Because of the lack of sophisticated information systems and processes that could quickly identify risk and prioritize new evidence for care, many of these folks missed opportunities that could have prevented the paralysis, shortness of breath and death that often resulted from premature disease. By partnering with North Carolina practices to build in the needed supports, we have the potential to prevent thousands of heart attacks, strokes, and deaths within a few short years.”

Heart Health Now! is based at the Cecil G. Sheps Center for Health Services Research in partnership with the NC Area Health Education Center (AHEC) Program’s Practice Support Services, the UNC School of Medicine, Community Care of North Carolina (CCNC) and its family of Informatics Services . AHEC and CCNC have already built a standard of success in these areas. To learn more, visit

While Heart Health Now! will conduct an internal evaluation, AHRQ also awarded a grant to the Oregon Health and Science University (OHSU) to conduct an independent national evaluation of the overall EvidenceNOW initiative. The team will study the impact of the EvidenceNOW interventions on practice improvement and the delivery of cardiovascular care. In addition, the evaluation team will study which practice supports and quality improvement strategies are most effective in improving the implementation of new evidence.

UNC’s grant will run for three years and the evaluation grant for four years. Together, these grants represent one of the largest research investments to date by AHRQ. For more information about AHRQ’s EvidenceNOW initiative, including details on each of the grantees and cooperatives, visit: To read the full summary of UNC’s project, go to:

EvidenceNOW supports AHRQ’s overall mission to ensure that evidence is understood and used. Funding for this initiative comes from the Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Trust Fund created by the Affordable Care Act and supports AHRQ’s mandate to disseminate and implement patient-centered outcomes research findings so that new findings are integrated into the delivery of health care.

For more information about Million Hearts, visit