Interdisciplinary Collaboration and Capacity Building: Helping to Expand Heart Disease Prevention to OB/GYN and Dental Offices

When it comes to transforming individual or population health, collaboration and capacity building are essential. That’s why, at the Minneapolis Heart Institute Foundation, we’re always asking ourselves who else we can partner with to achieve our mission. The answers are not always the most obvious ones. In two of our latest innovative, collaborative initiatives, we’re partnering with providers not usually involved in heart disease prevention: obstetricians and gynecologists and oral health professionals.


Every day, obstetricians and gynecologists (OB/GYNs) and oral health professionals interact with many patients who are either living with heart disease or at risk for developing it. That’s why training these professionals to reach and engage more people in reducing their risk for heart disease makes sense. Through these two initiatives, our teams are first undertaking capacity-building efforts to assess these health care providers’ existing practices related to heart disease screening and prevention. In a second phase, we’ll train and empower these providers to expand heart disease prevention efforts within their specialty setting.


Broadening the Role of OB/GYNs


Heart disease is the leading cause of death for women, claiming one in three women’s lives compared with one in 22 for breast cancer. Unfortunately, it’s no longer a disease primarily affecting older women. At an increasing rate, heart disease is killing younger women ages 35-44. Rising levels of obesity, increased smoking and lower levels of physical activity are all likely playing a role. 


With primary funding from The Bowen Family Foundation, the Broadening the Role of OB/GYNs in Assessing Cardiovascular Health (BROACH) project addresses the need for young women in Minnesota — who often rely on their OB/GYN for most of their health care needs — to be screened for heart disease and provided with proper follow-up. To address this opportunity, our project team has established partnerships with Mayo Clinic, Allina Health and the University of Minnesota. Currently in the assessment phase, the BROACH team will use findings from patient and provider surveys to develop OB/GYN-specific training materials and educational resources. Ultimately, these efforts will help more young women identify and/or reduce their heart disease risk factors through preventative screenings prompted by their OB/GYN.


Broadening the Role of Oral Health Providers


Some of the same unhealthful habits that contribute to poor oral health — namely tobacco use and drinking sugar-sweetened beverages — are strongly associated with heart disease. Through our project in Brown County, funded by Delta Dental of Minnesota, a team from the Minneapolis Heart Institute Foundation is working with oral health professionals to help them better assess their patients’ habits in these areas and counsel them.

Aligned with the “5 As of Smoking Cessation,” the project provides a unique opportunity to engage patients to holistically improve their health. It aims to prompt changes at the clinic and provider levels that help move toward an environment that promotes and supports assessment, counseling and follow-up practices related to tobacco use and sugar-sweetened beverage consumption.

Based on findings from a recent provider survey, the project team is planning a continuing education event in partnership with the Minnesota Dental Association to train providers in effective behavior change counseling. This collaboration allows the project to leverage existing channels to effectively reach the intended audience, and encourages sustainability by engaging key community stakeholders.


Additionally, the project team will be developing a patient handout with referral resources, a need identified by providers in the survey. On an ongoing basis, providers will be able to use this handout to help prompt a discussion with patients, then refer them to appropriate tools and information that can help them reduce or eliminate their use of tobacco and/or sugar-sweetened beverages.


For more information on these exciting initiatives, contact us at [email protected]. Ask yourself who your organization can collaborate with to build capacity for your efforts!