Cardiovascular diseases, including hypertension, heart failure, coronary heart disease and stroke have reached crisis proportions among African Americans and are the leading killer of this population.  In fact, African Americans are three times more likely to die from heart disease than Caucasians, and nearly twice as likely to die from stroke.   
Since 1974, the Association of Black Cardiologists (ABC) has been working to improve African Americans’ understanding of their disproportionate risk for cardiovascular disease and life saving steps they can take to prevent or treat this deadly condition.  Yet past educational initiatives seem to have fallen on deaf ears.  Lack of cultural relevance and difficulty accessing program information are some of the reasons why these efforts didn’t achieve optimal success.  This is why the ABC sought to create a program that would speak directly to African Americans about the small but meaningful changes they could make to live longer, healthier lives that would enable them to be a part of generations to come.
Knowing African Americans place a high value on family traditions, the theme “Children Should Know Their Grandparents” seemed most appropriate for the ABC’s new campaign.  The program would consist of a video and guidebook that outline in clear, concise language small steps African Americans could take to prevent cardiovascular disease. 
To bring the program to life, the ABC requested and received an unrestricted educational grant from Novartis Pharmaceuticals Corporation to develop and produce the key program components.  This grant included the writing and production of the “Children Should Know Their Grandparents” guidebook and the script development, filming and editing of the accompanying video.  The ABC also received a second grant from Novartis to help upgrade their website so that the “Children Should Know Their Grandparents” video would be made available online, making the program available to a broader target audience.  After completing the video and guidebook, Novartis directly funded the services of its public relations firm, Chandler Chicco Agency (CCA), to work with the ABC in publicizing the “Children Should Know Their Grandparents” program.  
Seemingly countless programs to educate the public about heart disease have been undertaken in the past few decades.  The ABC had to find an approach that was fresh in the eyes of the caregivers, physicians and media who would carry the message to those most at risk.
Extensive focus group research conducted by the ABC determined that the nuclear family, where traditions and values are passed down between generations, was most likely to influence health-related behavior and actions in the African American community.  The research also showed a celebrity that African Americans could relate to would be a powerful voice for change.
Additionally, the organization queried the membership for the most recent statistics their members could provide on cardiovascular disease.  Members provided some of the following details:

        African Americans are three times as likely to die from cardiovascular disease than Caucasians

  • Mortality rates from hypertension are substantially greater in African Americans than Caucasians—in 1995, the death rate was 355 percent higher in African American males and 352 percent higher in African American females that in Caucasian males and females respectively

        African Americans are more likely to die from heart failure than Caucasians

        1995, death due to coronary heart disease was 40 percent higher in African Americans than Caucasians

        Young African Americans have a two-to-three fold greater risk of suffering a stroke, and a 1.8-fold greater mortality rate due to stroke than Caucasians.
Raise awareness of the disproportionate risk for mortality from cardiovascular disease among African Americans thereby motivating health and lifestyle changes and encouraging those at risk to seek medical treatment.
Strategic Approach:
The overall strategic approach was to enlist family members to fight against heart disease in the African American community.  To this end, “Children Should Know Their Grandparents” – A Guide To A Healthy Heart  was created which consisted of the following components:

        A 30-minute educational video starring actor Robert Guillaume

        A 44-page companion guidebook

        Participation by more than 700 African American cardiologists who are members of the ABC

        Intensive media campaign targeted to markets with large African American populations
To ensure that the “Children Should Know Their Grandparents”   program was accessible to as many people as possible, the ABC made the program’s video and guidebook available on its web site (  Copies of the video and guidebook were also provided to ABC physician members, who in turn, gave them to patients in their communities. 
Campaign Execution:
  ABC Chief Executive Officer, B. Waine Kong, introduced the “Children Should Know Their Grandparents” campaign to its physician members at a private reception held during the Group’s annual meeting that preceded the American College of Cardiology meeting in March 2001.  This ensured that upon launch, physician members would both advocate and support the program with their patients and their communities. 
Following this preview for members, the video and guidebook components were streamlined onto the ABC’s website.  The program was launched to the public on July 24, 2001 through a national media campaign with special focus on cities with a large African American population.  The public relations firm CCA conducted the publicity and media outreach on behalf of the ABC. 
The following materials were developed for media:   

        Specially-designed press kit cover featuring Robert Guillaume

        A 2-page program announcement release

        Cardiovascular disease in African Americans fact sheet

        Biographies for program spokespeople (made available upon request)
CCA also conducted extensive follow-up with media who received program materials to encourage media placements, arrange interviews for media with Dr. Kong and other ABC physicians and officials, and track media coverage. 
Measurement of Success:
To date, stories about the “Children Should Know Their Grandparents”-   A Guide To A Healthy Heart has captured headlines in nine of 13 target markets and generated more than 9,937,562 impressions. 
More than 50,000 web users have logged on to the ABC’s site and viewed the “Children Should Know Their Grandparents” video.
The ABC has fielded 125 requests for the video and guidebook program to be sent to local libraries and community centers.
The prestigious Journal of American College of Cardiology also wrote an editorial about the program in their November 2001 issue.  The article commends the ABC and Novartis for its ongoing commitment saying, “It is a different kind of program because it addresses the needs and culture of the African American community.”