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University Hospital Foundation, AHS join together to tackle heart disease

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Edmonton’s University Hospital Foundation (UHF) and Alberta Health Services (AHS) are joining forces to create a pilot project intended to prevent heart disease.

The initiative, called Heartways, is meant to be a collaborative partnership between AHS, UHF, and Novartis Pharmaceuticals Canada that uses shared data sets about Albertans in order to create strategies to prevent heart disease, specifically atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease (ASCVD).

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“Our goal is the best care for Albertans,” said University Hospital Foundation president and CEO Jodi Abbott during a Wednesday news conference at the Mazankowski Alberta Heart Institute. “Did you know that there are more than 400,000 Albertans with secondary cardiovascular disease? That’s a huge number. In collaboration with our partners, we’re strengthening secondary prevention efforts by supporting care teams to reach out to patients with known and treatable uncontrolled cholesterol levels.”

Abbot says the project will be a “catalyst for bridging innovation beyond the hospital corridors and into the community.” The Heartways strategy is already being pilot tested in hospitals and pharmacies in Sherwood Park, Calgary, Lethbridge and Grande Prairie, with care providers at the pilot sites working to implement and refine what they call patient-centred treatment. 

These test clinics will treat approximately 2,500 patients to start, said the news release, with more patients rolled in over the next 12 months.

“Patients really live and are primarily managed by primary care,” said Rick Ward with Crowfoot Village Family Practice. “You think the concept is that if we do things right at primary care, it’s better for the system and better for patients. So it’s really visionary that the University Hospital Foundation and Novartis have partnered with government and AHS to support efforts in primary care to improve outpatient outcomes.

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“I learned too late that plaque accumulations cannot be reversed,” said Gary Semeniuk, strategic clinical networks patient adviser with AHS, at the news conference. Semeniuk is a heart attack survivor himself, adding “I wouldn’t be here today if I didn’t have a heart attack.”

He said the experience gave him tremendous perspective on just how preventable heart disease like ASCVD can be.

“They can only be prevented. And this pilot program is giving ease of accessibility to experts and supports for Albertans so they can manage and take control of their cholesterol and lipid profiles.”

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