A unique community-led health promotion, chronic disease prevention, and management program

The following is a guest post by CCNA researcher, Dr. Janusz Kaczorowski.

Physical inactivity, poor diet, and tobacco use are each risk factors for dementia, heart disease, stroke and diabetes. These health conditions are on the rise in Canada, despite the fact that each of the risk behaviors is modifiable.

In an effort to raise awareness, encourage self-care, and provide supportive health and community resources to Canadians, the Cardiovascular Health Awareness Program (CHAP) recruits and trains volunteers nation-wide. Broadly speaking, they complete health risk assessments, share targeted healthy lifestyle and preventive care materials, link participants with locally available resources and programs, as well as assist participants in measuring their blood pressure. Results from these sessions are then sent back to primary care providers to ‘close-the-loop’ and ensure continuity of care.

According to evidence produced to date, CHAP can:

  • Identify adults with undiagnosed or uncontrolled high blood pressure;
  • Substantially reduce participants’ blood pressure;
  • Optimize drug regimens; and
  • Reduce cardiovascular-related hospitalization rates and health care system costs in the communities where it is implemented.

Importantly, CHAP also serves as the main evidence for encouraging more intensive screening for hypertension in the published recommendations by the Canadian Task Force on Preventive Health Care and the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force.

Based on our work, CHAP has received recognition at national and international levels for improving the health of participants, and for doing so without additional costs to the health care system.

Toward Sustainability and Scalability

Our current work focuses on spreading and scaling up the program in communities across Canada, and internationally.

Populations: CHAP was originally developed for seniors living in small to medium-sized communities. Current work has expanded its reach to younger adults (Laval (Quebec), and Markham (Ontario)), ethnic communities (South-Asians in Markham and Hamilton, Ontario), older adults living in subsidized housing (Hamilton, Ontario), and individuals in large urban and suburban communities in Alberta, Ontario, and Quebec.

Setting: CHAP was originally evaluated to be effective when offered in community pharmacies. Current work has expanded the program so that it can now be offered in a variety of other settings, including primary care practices, subsidized housing, community centres, schools, libraries, and places of worship.

Conditions: Although CHAP has addressed the risks associated with cardiovascular disease, the essential elements of the model have broader applicability. CHAP is now being further assessed to determine its impact on the prevention and management of other chronic conditions, such as diabetes.

Volunteers: We have created volunteer recruitment and training methods adapted to meet the needs of CHAP communities. Sessions can be facilitated by aged-matched and locally recruited volunteers (Laval, Quebec), or university students (Markham and Ottawa, Ontario).

International initiative: The CHAP model is currently being adapted to raise awareness and prevent diabetes in one of the poorest regions of the Philippines, as a first step in targeting other populations in low-and-middle income countries.

For more information, do not hesitate to contact CHAP coordinators, Francine Marzanek (mlefebv@mcmaster.ca) and Magali Girard (magali.girard.chum@ssss.gouv.qc.ca).

The views and opinions expressed in this guest blog are those of the authors (individual CCNA scientists) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Canadian Consortium on Neurodegeneration in Aging and its partner organizations.