A new study recently published in the Journal of the American Heart Association (JAHA) found that the University of Minnesota’s Minnesota Heart Health Program “Ask About Aspirin” initiative, a statewide aspirin public health campaign launched in June 2015, is likely a beneficial and cost-effective way to reduce the incidence of a first heart attack or stroke. The program is designed to lower cardiovascular risk within the target population of men ages 45-79 and women 55-79 years in Minnesota over their lifetimes.
Researchers from the University of Minnesota’s School of Public Health and Cardiovascular Division estimate that nearly 10,000 fewer heart attacks and at least 1,200 fewer strokes would occur as a result of improving public knowledge of aspirin use. Furthermore, researchers found the campaign will lower overall health care costs in both men and women.
“As University researchers, we strive to identify cost-effective strategies for preventing disease and improving public health,” said Dr. Jean Abraham, co-author and associate professor in the University of Minnesota School of Public Health.
Supporting this goal, a second significant study simultaneously published in JAHA, also led by University of Minnesota researchers, found aspirin use for the primary prevention of heart attack and stroke rose steadily from 1980-2009 in the Minneapolis/St. Paul adult population.
“Despite the steady increase in aspirin use, we found many adults who would benefit from aspirin use are not taking it,” said Dr. Russell Luepker, co-author and University of Minnesota School of Public Health professor. “We also found no associated trend for increased gastrointestinal bleeding observed in the Minneapolis/St. Paul study population, a reassuring outcome.”
Until now, it has not been known if efforts to directly inform the public and improve aspirin “health literacy” for this preventive medication would lower cardiovascular events, and thus cost, in any large state population. As noted in the accompanying JAHA editorial, the Minnesota state program is designed to assure that shared decision making links an informed patient with an informed health professional, as an effective and efficient national model.
“There is no other single cardiovascular medication as effective and inexpensive as aspirin,” said Dr. Alan Hirsch, senior author and University of Minnesota School of Public Health adjunct professor and Medical School professor. “Yet, despite the prior publication of national guidelines that have recommended increased use of aspirin, no prior state or national effort has effectively promoted such use. It is always our hope that such state programs, designed to achieve maximal individual benefit and lowest personal risk, can be created with positive measured clinical and economic impact. These data demonstrate that the health and economic impact would be immense.”