From Cardiovascular Disease to Cardiovascular Health

This physician essayist applauds the adoption of the American Heart Association’s 2020 Impact Goal to improve the cardiovascular health (CVH) of all Americans by 20 percent while reducing deaths from cardiovascular disease (CVD) and stroke by 20 percent—by the year 2020.

He calls the focus shift to include cardiovascular health improvement (in addition to disease reduction) nothing less than a public health revolution.

Where did it come from? While the seeds of the revolution were sowed over decades, Healthy People 2010, released in January 2000, represented a major commitment to improve CVH and quality of life, not just prevent heart disease and stroke.

When did it happen? In June 2007, heart association leadership commissioned a Strategic Planning Task Force to draft a 2020 Impact Goal that would incorporate target percentage improvements for CVH and CVD. In addition to setting both goals at 20 percent, the task force defined health in terms of seven primary metrics: current smoking, body mass index, physical activity, healthy diet score, total cholesterol, blood pressure, and fasting plasma glucose.

Securing gains and moving forward. With cardiovascular health declining from childhood to adulthood, accompanied by inadequate diet, according to the author, reaching the 2020 Impact Goal “will depend on effectively addressing countervailing influences.”


This study is one in a series supported by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s Pioneer Portfolio to explore Positive Health, an emerging concept that seeks to demonstrate that in addition to health risks, people also have health assets, which can be strengthened to produce a healthier life. These health assets could include biological factors, such as high heart rate variability; subjective factors, such as optimism; and functional factors, such as a stable marriage.

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Improvement in cardiovascular health adopted by the AHA as one of its Impact Goals for 2020.