University of Minnesota

The Inter-Society Commission for Heart Disease Resources

Intersociety Chair: Irving S. Wright
Project Director: Donald T. Fredrickson

“An organization created to implement a contract between Regional Medical Programs Service (RMP) and the American Heart Association to help fulfill the requirements of Section 907 of Public Law 89-239 which established the RMP in 1965.” The purpose of the Commission was to establish guidelines for medical facilities in the prevention, treatment, and rehabilitation of patients with cardiovascular diseases (CVD).

Participating organizations were 29 mainly specialty societies, none of which were epidemiological or in public health. The National Heart and Lung Institute, RMP, Social and Rehabilitation Services, and the Veterans Administration were advisory.

Most relevant to the history of CVD epidemiology and prevention were the Atherosclerosis Study Group and the Epidemiology Study Group that jointly produced the Report on Primary Prevention of the Atherosclerotic Diseases (Circulation 1970; Suppl to Vol. 42: 1970, pages A-55-95):

Atherosclerosis: Jeremiah Stamler, chair, R. Beard. W. Connor; V. de Wolfe. J. Stokes III. P. Willis III

Epidemiology: Abraham Lilienfeld, chair. TR Dawber, JT Doyle, FH Epstein, LH Kuller, W Winkelstein

The Report on Primary Prevention commenced with a charge from the Second National Conference on Cardiovascular Diseases of 1964, and one from WHO, 1969:

“In view of the fact that atherosclerotc complications cause a majority of the deaths in this country and a substantial proportion of the disability, it is recommended that immediate efforts be made to prevent premature atherosclerotic complications.” (AHA)

And that “…countries most affected by cardiovascular diseases increase their efforts both to set up efficient services for control and to carry out more extensive research programmes.” (WHO)

The Report reviewed the CVD disease burden and evidence for risk factors and their modification, thus, the potential and feasibility of prevention. It made specific recommendations for field trials of primary prevention and for program and policy on diet, labeling of foods, and education, and on the elimination of cigarette smoking, the detection and control of hypertension, and both hygienic and drug strategies for lipid lowering.

Never before (or since) was there a more positive, specific, and broad proposal for research and preventive strategy for CVD prevention at national and international levels and one directed at the collectivity as well as the patient and healing professions. With the combined force of this Inter-society Report, the 1968 Report of the International Society of Cardiology’s Makarska Conference, and the 1971 Report of the NHLI Task Force on Arteriosclerosis, dealing with bench and clinical science as well, the NHLI and its director, Theodore Cooper, developed and proposed a major forward policy of research and program in CVD prevention. This was publicly announced and implemented in 1972, which we have delegated as the beginning of the modern era of CVD epidemiology. (Henry Blackburn)