Start With Your Heart

To join our listserv and advocate on efforts to promote a heart-healthy and stroke-free state, send an email to Anna Bess Brown, Executive Director.

Heart disease and stroke impact the lives of many of North Carolina’s citizens. Heart disease and stroke are the second and fourth leading causes of death.  The Justus-Warren Heart Disease and Stroke Prevention Task Force works through our Action Agenda to reduce heart disease and stroke in North Carolina.

Established in 1995 through legislation passed by the N.C. General Assembly, the Justus-Warren Heart Disease and Stroke Prevention Task Force is comprised of clinicians, members of the General Assembly, public health leaders and many partners who are committed to environmental and systems change to improve cardiovascular health. The Justus-Warren Heart Disease and Stroke Prevention Task Force and its Stroke Advisory Council works with stakeholders throughout the state to prevent cardiovascular disease and to promote timely diagnosis and effective treatment of acute cardiovascular events.

Accomplishments of the Justus-Warren Task Force include:

  • Serving as a major contributor to the reduction of North Carolina’s heart disease and stroke morbidity and mortality rates.
  • Narrowing the gap in stroke mortality between North Carolina and the United States and between African American North Carolina residents and white North Carolina residents.
  • Serving as a champion for North Carolina’s smoke-free laws including the 2005 to ban smoking on the House floor, followed by the banning in 2007 of smoking in all governmental buildings, the ban on smoking in state government motor fleet vehicles in 2008 and the local authority provided to community colleges to prohibit smoking and all tobacco use on community college campuses in 2008. We also are very proud to be a partner in the 2009 law that made all North Carolina bars and restaurants smoke-free.
  • Held Heart Health Day at the North Carolina State Legislative Building from 1997 through 2009.
  • Successfully implemented award-winning public awareness campaigns on the dangers/health risks of hypertension and secondhand smoke, and the importance of recognizing the signs and symptoms of heart disease and stroke and immediately calling 911.
  • Collaborated with statewide partners to develop three comprehensive plans for the prevention and management of heart disease and stroke, including the first comprehensive recommendations for a Stroke Systems of Care Plan for North Carolina.
  • Sponsored the Second Cardiovascular Disease Data Summit in 1999 focused on stroke. This summit included stakeholders in South Carolina and Georgia, resulting in the development of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) funded Tri-State Stroke Network.
  • Positioned North Carolina to be one of only two states to receive the highest level of the initial Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) federal funding for cardiovascular disease.

Selected accomplishments can be viewed as a detailed list or an infographic.

Creation of the Justus-Warren Heart Disease and Stroke Prevention Task Force

In 1994, North Carolina’s state health department had no ongoing sources of funds for the prevention of heart disease and stroke, despite the fact that these were the first and third leading causes of death, disability and health care costs in the state.

An internal work group was convened to develop A Preliminary Plan to Prevent Heart Disease and Stroke in North Carolina. This plan, which included six broad goals and 22 objectives, was reviewed and supported by 25 partner organizations. The first of 10 activities recommended in the Plan was to establish and fund a legislative heart disease and stroke prevention task force.

The American Heart Association, the North Carolina Medical Society, the North Carolina Hospital Association, the state’s four academic medical centers and other influential organizations partnered with the former Division of Community Health to support legislation to establish a legislative task force. In 1995, the North Carolina General Assembly passed legislation establishing the North Carolina Heart Disease and Stroke Prevention Task Force. It appropriated $100,000 a year for two years to fund two positions within the North Carolina Division of Public Health and provide other related resources. In 2003, the Task Force was renamed to honor the contributions of Representative Larry Justus of Hendersonville, NC and Senator Ed Warren of Greenville, NC. Both legislative champions were instrumental in the creation of the Justus-Warren Task Force and died of cardiovascular disease.

In 2006, stroke mortality rates were among the highest in the nation. In order to address this alarming fact, the General Assembly passed legislation establishing the Stroke Advisory Council to advise the Justus-Warren Task Force regarding the development of a statewide system of stroke care plan which included a process for identifying and disseminating information about the location of primary stroke centers.

The Stroke Advisory Council was charged with submitting a report to the General Assembly on February 15, 2007 regarding the development of the system. The Stroke Advisory Council convened on September 22, 2006, and the Preliminary Findings and Recommendations Report was submitted in January 2007.

In 2012, the Boards and Commissions Efficiency Act proposed to eliminate the Justus-Warren Task Force along with numerous other boards and commissions. Through the efforts of legislative champions and many organizations, partners and key stakeholders, the Justus-Warren Task Force was not eliminated. Subsequent efforts to streamline resources and promote efficiencies have resulted in the elimination of standing committees and a reduction in the number of meetings held per year. The full Justus-Warren Task Force meets twice during the fiscal year. However, the  work of the Justus-Warren Task Force, its Stroke Advisory Council and related work groups continues throughout the year.

Please consult the North Carolina Medical Journal December 2012 issue for more information about the Justus-Warren Task Force.

“Start With Your Heart” and other Public Awareness Campaigns

The first recommendation of the Preliminary Plan (1995) was to create a legislative task force. The second recommendation was to increase public awareness of the risk of heart disease and stroke. To facilitate accomplishment of this charge, the Justus-Warren Task Force  designated one of its four subcommittees as the Public Awareness subcommittee. One of the first acts of the Justus-Warren Task Force, in conjunction with the Public Awareness subcommittee, was to host the Convocation of Community Leaders to Prevent Heart Disease and Stroke in April 1996. Participants heard speakers and then divided into 15 work groups to make recommendations. The proceedings of that meeting were published in December 1996.

Public awareness events began with the hosting of Legislative Heart Health Day for North Carolina legislators in 1997. This day-long event, supported by many Justus-Warren Task Force partners, included information, screenings, presentations and proclamations. Observance of Legislative Heart Health Day continued on a bi-annual basis until 2009.

Formative research was done to assess the need, design and implement a targeted media campaign. Strike Out Stroke campaigns in 1997 focused on radio and print ads. The Start With Your Heart media campaign began in 1998 with billboards.

“Start With Your Heart”

The Start With Your Heart website went live in 2000 and was followed with a second media campaign in 2002.

From 2004 through 2006, several media campaigns focused on different stroke prevention messages. The Start With Your Heart campaign emphasized the importance of controlling high blood pressure. Lost in Translation radio ads were developed to increase knowledge about warning signs of stroke and the importance of immediately calling 911. Seconds Count radio ads were developed to emphasize seeking immediate medical attention for a stroke.

Award-winning public awareness and media campaigns since 2006 have addressed secondhand smoke, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and signs and symptoms of heart attack and stroke, including a targeted campaign on signs and symptoms of heart attacks in women, and the importance of immediately calling 911. To view videos from the media campaigns, visit the Videos page in the Resources section of the website.