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U.S. Surgeon General urges Cal State LA students to fight heart disease

October 5, 2015

Surgeon General Vivek H. Murthy lauds University's Mind Matters initiative; day-long event features heart screening, panel discussion as part of nationwide initiative

U.S. Surgeon General Vivek H. Murthy on Monday urged Cal State LA students to take action against cardiovascular disease, which claims nearly 400,000 women’s lives each year, making it the number one killer of women in the nation.

Murthy participated in a heart disease awareness and screening event, which included a forum with Cal State LA President William A. Covino, National Council of La Raza President Janet Murguia and Rita Redberg, professor of medicine and director of Women’s Cardiovascular Services at UC San Francisco.

The panelists called for urgent action to raise awareness and make women’s heart health a priority. The event was sponsored by the Women’s Heart Alliance, Clinton Foundation and Cal State LA, which was the first university selected to participate in the nationwide initiative.


Photos: U.S. Surgeon General visits Cal State LA

Cal State LA students code for women's heart health

Covino announced at the event that he will begin a dialogue with students, faculty and staff to create a smoke-free University. This process marks an important move for public health at the University, as smoking and exposure to second-hand smoke increases the risk of dying from heart disease and stroke.

During the panel, Murthy commended Cal State LA's Mind Matters initiative, which provides resources and programs to help students navigate the demands of academic excellence, family responsibilities and jobs. After the panel concluded, the Surgeon General took the blood pressure of Cal State LA student Estefany Bahena, who was participating in a health screening event in the University-Student Union Plaza. Murthy then visited the Health Hut, which was staffed by members of the Student Health Advisory Committee. He posed for photos with students as a steady rain fell on the plaza. 

As part of its commitment to combat cardiovascular disease, Cal State LA also hosted a women’s heart health codeathon and the screening event in partnership with WHA, where students met with medical professionals and learned about their personal risk of developing heart disease as well as how to improve their heart health.

Students also competed over the weekend in a codeathon event, hosted by the Clinton Health Matters Initiative, an initiative of the Clinton Foundation, in which young developers and designers built original prototype apps to help young women decrease their risk of developing cardiovascular disease. The two-day event drew industry leaders from the tech, design and health fields.Surgeon General

“The key to preventing disease is a healthy lifestyle,” Murthy said. “There are everyday steps you can take to lower your chance of developing heart disease by eating a healthy diet; being active and exercising regularly; and staying tobacco-free.” 

Cal State LA’s population reflects the diversity of greater Los Angeles’s residents, with a student body of 27,000, about 60 percent of whom are Latino, 15 percent Asian American and four percent African American. As gender disparities are evident in heart disease research funding and mortality, and 60 percent of students are women, the Cal State LA campus served as an appropriate audience for the forum’s message of action.

“At Cal State LA, we launched our Mind Matters initiative last year because we realize that without student well-being there is no academic success,” President Covino said. “We’re confident that our students’ awareness of heart disease will increase through our partnership with the Women’s Heart Alliance and Clinton Health Matters Initiative.”

Ronald O. Perelman, co-founder of WHA and Chairman and CEO of MacAndrews & Forbes Incorporated, echoed the forum’s call for young women to take action against cardiovascular disease. “In the United States, heart disease kills more women each year than all cancers combined, and has taken more women’s lives than men’s for more than 20 years. Yet, 45 percent of women are unaware that it’s their number one threat.  We need awareness, education and advocacy to tackle this epidemic. We need to make women’s heart health and prevention a priority, to stop this disease in its tracks.”

British Robinson, CEO of the Women’s Heart Alliance, also spoke, emphasizing gender racial disparities. “Heart disease is the number one killer of women in the U.S., and black and Hispanic women like many of us here today are especially vulnerable. To win the fight against health disparities, we need action in every sector.”

“Everyone plays a role in creating and sustaining healthy communities and we know that technology can be particularly impactful in that effort,” said Rain Henderson, CEO of the Clinton Health Matters Initiative. “We were thrilled to bring our healthy codeathon series to Cal State LA students to identify what works and how technology can spur innovation that will lead to healthier communities for years to come.”

“NCLR is proud to partner with the Women's Heart Alliance to increase awareness of women’s heart health,” Murguía said. “Latinas face a higher risk of cardiovascular disease yet one in three Latinas are unaware that heart disease is their number one cause of death. That is why not only in my role as the leader of the nation’s largest Hispanic organization, but also as a Latina, I want to ensure women, especially young Latinas, are aware of their heart risks."

The Cal State LA campus served as a pilot location this weekend for the formal launch of a new partnership between the Women’s Heart Alliance and Clinton Health Matters Initiative, aimed at reducing women’s heart disease and its precursors in young women. The partnership, which will expand to more campuses in 2016, will identify women at risk of developing or who have heart disease and link them to care, while promoting best practices in screening, diagnosing and treatment of the disease and its risk factors.

Photos: Above, from left to right: Rita Redberg, professor of medicine and director of Women’s Cardiovascular Services at UC San Francisco, U.S. Surgeon General Vivek H. Murthy, National Council of La Raza President Janet Murguia and Cal State LA President William A. Covino. Bottom: Murthy with students from the Student Health Advisory Committee. (Credit: J. Emilio Flores/Cal State LA)


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Cal State LA is a university dedicated to engagement, service, and the public good. Founded in 1947, the University serves more than 27,000 students and 240,000 distinguished alumni, who are as diverse as the city we serve. Located in the heart of Los Angeles, Cal State LA has long been recognized as an engine of economic and social mobility. Led by an award-winning faculty, the University offers nationally recognized programs in science, the arts, business, criminal justice, engineering, nursing, education and the humanities.

Cal State LA is home to the critically-acclaimed Luckman Fine Arts Complex, Pat Brown Institute for Public Affairs, Hertzberg-Davis Forensic Science Center, Hydrogen Research and Fueling Facility, Billie Jean King Sports Complex, TV, Film and Media Center and the Center for Engagement, Service, and the Public Good. For more information, visit