Heart & Soul


Reducing Disparities in Cardiovascular Health, Stroke, & Kidney Disease

Most heart attacks, strokes, and kidney failure in our state are preventable.

That’s right.  Through moderate changes in lifestyle and eating habits, these “silent killers” of South Carolinians could be dramatically reduced.

In 1997, with funding from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and philanthropist William Edwards Murray, the Palmetto Project created what would become the largest faith-based, health initiative in the state to combat preventable cardiovascular disease.

A grant from the AstraZeneca HealthCare Foundation in 2012 has expanded and strengthened Heart & Soul today into an 9-county network through which volunteer health ministries in African American churches are professionally trained and equipped to educate, screen, monitor, and refer-for-treatment their members at greatest risk.AstraZeneca Health Care Foundation Connections to Cardiovascular Health

Outcomes include lower blood pressures through more effective prevention, health education, and self-management of risk factors.  However, the key to Heart & Soul is that its programming is grounded in the culture, cuisine, history, and traditional faith of African Americans in South Carolina.

Heart & Soul has been replicated in a number of states outside South Carolina. NBC News highlighted the program in a broadcast about innovative, community-based health initiatives in the United States, while the US Department of Health & Human Services has designated it a “best practice” in community health.

  • South Carolina consistently ranks among the three states with the highest incidence of heart disease, stroke, and related kidney failure. We lead every other state in cardiovascular mortality among citizens under 45.
  • African Americans born in South Carolina are nearly twice as likely to develop risk factors for these chronic conditions as everyone else.
  • Volunteer teams in more than 600 congregations have been trained through Heart & Soul.  Thousands more have participated in community-based health education and disease management workshops.
  • Over a two year period, the average blood pressure of a H&S participant declined from consistently “elevated” to “normal” over a two-year period.
  • Five years after Heart & Soul was implemented, statewide disparities by race in cardiovascular mortality among men declined by 50%.

Contact:  CWhipper@palmettoproject.org

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