University of Minnesota

Early CVD Methods Conferences (AHA-NIH)

With the early 1950s surge in epidemiological studies of cardiovascular diseases, a few leaders recognized a real and urgent need for valid standardized methods for diagnosis and measurement. James Watt, National Heart Institute director, was central to an effort in which NIH and the American Heart Association (AHA) instituted a series of conferences to develop and disseminate improved survey measures. The hope was to achieve comparable methods throughout; but, short of that, to identify at least a coterie of a few clinical baseline- and end-points fully comparable among the many independent surveys those agencies were sponsoring.

The first of the series was held in 1956 at Arden House, the elegant family home of the Harriman family in New York State. It placed junior members of study teams together with senior leaders to set the stage and goals. The second conference was held in Brookline, MA in 1957; a serious working conference of those directly responsible for surveys who sought to reach agreements on methods and make plans to compare results systematically. The concluding conference was held in 1959 at Princeton University, after which the agreed and recommended standards and procedures were formally published.

Significant progress was achieved in shared methods and in establishing with CDC a central facility and procedure for quality control of blood lipid measures, along with on-going mechanisms to maintain quality within new structures of NIH, AHA, and the World Health Organization (WHO).

This segment of the website provides a short history of this useful early process, with stories about the attitudes and realities surrounding survey methods among the pioneering studies. It suggests that a side-effect of the methods conferences was a more cohesive and colleagial scientific community among the burgeoning new enterprise: CVD epidemiology and prevention research. (HB)

Click below to view each conference:

1. Arden House Conference

2. Brookline Conference

3. Princeton Conference