MHIF Team Publishes New Paper in Population Health Management

 January 28, 2020

In our work to create a world without heart and vascular disease, the Minneapolis Heart Institute Foundation® (MHIF) is committed to helping entire communities throughout the U.S. become healthier. That’s because to effectively reduce heart disease, community-based programs addressing the social, behavioral and environmental determinants are needed in addition to clinical care. Even modest improvements in population-level risk hold the potential to significantly reduce the prevalence of heart disease and its risk factors.

 As part of our work to help other communities implement the most effective interventions for improving population health, MHIF’s Population Health Team has published its latest paper, “Population-Level Reach of Cardiovascular Disease Prevention Interventions in a Rural Community: Findings from The Heart of New Ulm Project” in the February 2020 issue of Population Health Management.

The paper examines participation by residents of a rural community in programs implemented as part of Hearts Beat Back:® The Heart of New Ulm Project (HONU), a population-based cardiovascular disease prevention (CVD) initiative that MHIF led in New Ulm, Minn., from 2009 to 2018 in partnership with Allina Health’s New Ulm Medical Center.

Over the 10-year research phase of the project, the community achieved impressive cultural shifts and improvements in heart disease risk factors, including improved blood pressure and cholesterol as well as increased physical activity and daily consumption of fruits and vegetables.

This latest HONU study compared participation rates for various interventions (e.g., heart health screenings, a year-long community weight loss intervention, community health challenges and a phone coaching program targeting high CVD-risk residents) that were conducted over the first six years of the project to assess which were the most successful in engaging residents from  the target community, and identified factors that differentiated participants vs. non-participants. Participation data was merged with electronic health record data, which provides data on nearly the entire community. This allowed researchers to assess which residents did and did not participate, and also identified if the programs were successful at reaching those people who were at highest risk for heart disease. 

“Our findings indicate that community-based cardiovascular disease prevention initiatives can be successful in engaging a high proportion of adult community members, as evidenced by HONU’s interventions, which engaged 44 percent of adult residents in New Ulm,” said Abbey Sidebottom, principal research scientist for Allina Health’s Care Delivery Research and principal investigator on the study. “By partnering with local health care systems, community initiatives can leverage electronic health record data to identify target populations and evaluate reach and engagement of these populations.”



 MHIF’s Rural Health Transformation Center can help communities accelerate their community health improvement efforts.Through information-packed webinars, conference presentations, social media posts and customized consulting services, our Population Health Team will share with you our lessons learned from 10 years of on-the-ground experience transforming health in a small rural Minnesota community.

“We hope our findings provide helpful guidance to other community-based health improvement initiatives regarding intervention decision making, implementation and recruitment,” said Gretchen Benson, MHIF’s population health program manager.