Memphis, Tennessee (May 17, 2021) – Researchers at the University of Tennessee Health Science Center have received a $ 4.5 million grant from the Agency for Research and Quality of Health (AHRQ) over a three-year period to lead a nationwide network of primary care providers. Health systems and academic centers to identify, develop and implement patient-centered approaches to improve the quality of care and outcomes for people with cardiovascular disease. Tennessee is one of only four states in the country selected by AHRQ to receive this grant and build a nationwide heart health network.

The Tennessee Heart Health Network will identify evidence-based interventions to help primary care providers across the state treat cardiovascular disease, the leading cause of premature morbidity and mortality in the United States. The initiative will focus on controlling high blood pressure and smoking cessation as the two most important modifiable risk factors for cardiovascular disease, and helping primary care providers implement proven approaches to reducing strokes and heart attacks.

Jim Bailey, MD, Robert S. Pearce Endowed Chair of Internal Medicine, Professor of Medicine and Preventive Medicine, and Director of the Center for Health Systems Improvement and the Tennessee Population Health Consortium at UTHSC, is the initiative’s lead researcher. Key partners in the state’s academic and health system include Ascension Saint Thomas, Ballad Health, Christ Community Health Services, Church Health, Erlanger Health System, East Tennessee State University, ETSU Health, the Methodist Le Bonheur Healthcare, Regional One Health, and the University of Memphis, UT Medical Center, and West Tennessee Healthcare.

Leading health plans in Tennessee, health care professionals and advocacy organizations support the initiative. As part of this effort, Qsource, a nonprofit that aims to improve the quality of healthcare, will provide intensive practice facilitation services to 75 or more primary care practices in Tennessee’s three major departments. In addition, individual “physician champions” from each region are spearheading efforts across the state.

The Tennessee Heart Health Network is the signature initiative for the new nationwide Tennessee Population Health Consortium. Partner health systems and practices join the consortium and its Tennessee Population Health Data Network to track patient outcomes and ensure that people at risk for heart disease receive the life-saving recommended care they need most. The network will also seek advice and expertise from patients across the state on the interventions they find most effective to help them comply with treatment and make the lifestyle changes needed to improve their heart health.

“We will provide the best evidence from patient-centric outcomes research and patient voices in Tennessee about what works best when it comes to improving heart health,” said Dr. Bailey.

“We are thrilled to receive this award, which supports Dr. Bailey’s work in promoting heart health in Tennessean,” said Dr. Scott Strome, Executive Dean of UTHSC College of Medicine. “These studies, felt locally and with a global impact on care, reinforce our focus on being an outward-looking presence that benefits the health needs of our communities, our state, and the world at large.”

Tennessee ranks third in the United States for cardiovascular events, sixth for deaths from cardiovascular disease, and fifth for deaths from stroke. “People of Tennessee are exposed to disproportionate exposure to heart attacks and strokes because of the high rates of obesity, diabetes, and high blood pressure caused by high-calorie, addictive processed foods, inadequate physical activity, and tobacco use. Primary care health counselors have been shown to help people change their health habits for themselves and adhere to healthy lifestyle changes. We want to have a health coach at every primary care clinic in Tennessee. This simple approach can significantly reduce the burden of cardiovascular disease in Tennessee, ”said Dr. Bailey.

The Tennessee Heart Health Network will help participating practices offer new services such as health coaching and motivational text messaging that have been shown to help people eat healthy, exercise, take critical medications, and quit smoking. The network will develop and offer toolkits of proven and patient-approved interventions for participating primary care providers across the state. In this way, the Tennessee Heart Health Network will help the neediest populations in Tennessee improve their own heart health.


As the only public, nationwide academic health system in Tennessee, the mission of the University of Tennessee Health Science Center is to harness the benefits of health sciences through education, research, clinical care, and public service for the achievement and maintenance of human health. with a focus on the citizens of Tennessee and the region. The main Memphis campus includes six colleges: Dentistry, Graduate Health Sciences, Health Professions, Medicine, Nursing, and Pharmacy. UTHSC also trains and educates students in the medical, pharmacy, dentistry, and health care professions, as well as medical residents and fellows, at key locations in Knoxville, Chattanooga, and Nashville.


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