A statewide public health program that uses community health workers to screen for cardiovascular disease (CVD) risk and provide ongoing support to participants is not only effective but also generates cost savings, according to a new study published online in BMC Public Health.
“We found that Colorado Heart Healthy Solutions is a cost-effective strategy,” researchers wrote, “which generated cost savings through averted CVD events and suggests that community-based programs may have a role improving population health beyond traditional health care delivery.”
Under the program, community health workers use a point-of-service software tool to generate 10-year Framingham CVD risk scores for participants in predominantly rural communities. Community health workers make medical referrals as necessary and provide ongoing, individualized support of lifestyle changes to participants.
The study centered on a sample of participants who returned and had their CVD risk factors reassessed.
For the base-case scenario involving a 52-year-old man with standard risk factors, the intervention was associated with an incremental cost savings of $3576 and a gain of 0.16 quality-adjusted life years, according to the study. For a 52-year-old woman with standard risk factors, participation was linked with a $1889 cost savings and a gain of 0.08 quality-adjusted life years.
In at-risk populations, cost savings were even higher: $5697 for a 52-year-old man at risk for CVD and $10,478 for a 52-year-old woman at risk for CVD.
“This suggests that population-based health programs have the potential to complement primary care preventative services,” researchers concluded, “and both improve health and reduce total medical care costs.” —Jolynn Tumolo