Published June 2, 2013

Big data vs big disease

There’s a new strategy for fighting disease and it is being led by an army of data. Data that tells the story of America’s health and helps drive innovations that make a difference in peoples’ lives. And there’s no more dire a front upon which to begin waging the battle of big data vs. big disease than cardiovascular disease.

Cardiovascular disease is responsible for one out of every three deaths in the United States, killing 2,200 people every day. Empowering consumers with information and tools to support healthier lifestyles can help dramatically lower the risk of developing heart disease and save millions of lives.

Our members across the country reach out to Blue Cross and Blue Shield frequently to ask how we are helping to make people healthier and how we can help them prevent serious diseases.  

The answer: We have programs in hundreds of communities to help people live healthier. Now we’re using our nationwide data on heart health to assist the Department of Health and Human Service’s Million HeartsTM initiative. This unique partnership will leverage the power of our local presence to fight this serious and costly national health problem. 

The Million Hearts™ campaign seeks to prevent one million heart attacks and strokes by 2017. Blue Cross and Blue Shield companies provide healthcare coverage in every ZIP code across the country and can identify pockets in every community where people are at high risk for cardiovascular disease, then get to work at the local level to reduce these risks.

 “Blue Cross and Blue Shield companies are working aggressively to provide the information and tools necessary for our members to live healthier lives.” said Dr. Trent Haywood, M.D., J.D., Chief Medical Officer for BCBSA. “With the Blues’ presence in every zip code and every community in the country, we are able to work with members and their clinicians on a local level to prevent cardiovascular disease.    The Blue System is uniquely positioned to work locally across the country on targeted programs to prevent this disease while leveraging nationwide data to bring about real change in people lives and heart health on a larger scale.”

As part of its commitment, BCBSA will:         

  • Use nationwide data to identify localities where residents exhibit a high incidence of high blood pressure – known as “Hypertensive Zones”·
  • Facilitate communication and neighborhood outreach to consumers in targeted Hypertensive Zones·
  • Implement targeted approaches to support local neighborhood programs across the country designed to actively reduce heart attacks and stroke through prevention, as well as through value-based care delivery systems that emphasize coordinated care for those with chronic conditions·        
  • Share best neighborhood practices collected from Blue Cross and Blue Shield companies to assist HHS in its effort to educate consumers and improve outcomes for patients




“We are excited to partner with Million Hearts™ and to do our part to prevent one million heart attacks and strokes by 2017,” Dr. Haywood said.

Preventing one million heart attacks and strokes in the next five years will require work and commitment. BCBSA will continue to identify and implement local programs to combat cardiovascular disease, so look for more updates on the BCBSA blog.


More information about the BCBSA commitment and the Million Hearts™ initiative can be found here.

The Blue Cross Blue Shield Association is an association of 36 independent, locally operated Blue Cross and/or Blue Shield companies.