Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine

Department of Preventive Medicine

Keep Your Heart Healthy

A Community Health Program to Prevent Heart Disease in Chicago

Keep Your Heart Healthy (KYHH) is a community-based program that provides cardiovascular disease risk (CVD) assessment and counseling to low-income, predominantly black and Hispanic residents of Chicago using the American Heart Association Life’s Simple 7® guidelines. KYHH engages specially trained medical students from the Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine working in partnership with community health workers. The program assesses participants’ modifiable risk factors to empower them with culturally appropriate health education and seeks to reduce health disparities by reducing risk factors and increasing access to health care. Community partner organizations publicize and recruit participants to events. Key strategies include community organizing, population screening, risk assessment, education, and linkages to community resources to improve healthy eating, physical activity, and access to a primary care medical home.

KYHH-Steven Havas advising students

Dr. Stephen Havas supervising medical students at a community event in southwest side of Chicago.

Targeting Alarming Health Disparities in Chicago

CVD disproportionately affects minority populations, and the disparity in Chicago is alarming. Keep Your Heart Healthy is a community-based program seeking to lower death rates from these diseases by reducing the related risk factors and overcoming health disparities in Chicago. With our community partners and the Chicago Department of Public Health, we aim to improve access to healthcare for at-risk individuals and offer evidence-based education to empower them to lead healthier lives. Through CVD risk factor screening and education, KYHH offers a readily accessible resource for residents who otherwise might not take steps toward reducing their risk for CVD.

Our community-based program includes strategies to reduce these health disparities by:

Medical students measuring a participant's blood pressure in Humboldt Park

Medical students measuring a participant's blood pressure in Humboldt Park.

Progress to Date

From our evaluation data thus far, 98.5% of 550 participants surveyed “Strongly Agree” or “Agree” that KYHH has been a helpful experience. A large part of this endorsement is due to the close and caring attention given by trained medical students and community health workers who take the time to understand the participant’s health concerns and work with them to develop an action plan. 100% of participants would recommend KYHH to a family or friend.

By engaging students with the community throughout their medical education, they will grow to understand the social determinants of health that affect the disproportionate rates of CVD. We hope that through this longitudinal experience, medical students will improve their cultural literacy and spark a desire to practice medicine in an urban area.

KYHH Poster with charts

A strong and collaborative network of community-based organizations enables KYHH reach residents and the surrounding neighborhoods. In addition to providing program outreach, our community partners also coordinate referrals for participants, connect them to local resources (e.g., food banks, mental health services), and conduct follow-up with participants to assess their progress. In addition, our community partners advocate for improvements in policy (e.g., applying a soda tax or increasing the smoking age), systems, (e.g. working with schools to host health fairs for parents during report card pick-up days) and environmental changes (e.g., supporting bike-share station expansions, improving sidewalks/parks).

From 2013 to date, the program has screened over 50,000 participants from 18 underserved communities in Chicago. Preliminary results from our follow-up phone survey of participants at 4-to-6 weeks after initial screenings shows significant impact on self-reported improvements in physical activity, diet and smoking cessation. Our desired long-term outcomes for participants (6-to-12 months) include clinical data demonstrating significant reductions in weight, managing blood pressure, and/or smoking status. Keep Your Heart Healthy represents an impactful model of CVD prevention that can be replicated in other U.S. cities. With extended funding, KYHH could expand to more underserved Chicago communities and help make Chicago the healthiest city in the nation.

Supervising/Mentoring Opportunities

We are always in need of volunteer physicians and residents (2nd-year & above) to supervise our medical students at these community events.

If you are interested in joining KYHH as a supervising physician at community events, please contact Dr. Stephen Havas or Jenna Stoehr.

Medical student with participant and evidence-based health literature.

Medical student with participant and evidence-based health literature.


Abstract from AHA’s EPI/NPAM, March 2014

Jacobs Journal of Epidemiology & Preventive Medicine, 6/3/2015

Dove Press Medical | Advances in Medical Education & Practice, 3/11/2016

Strengthening Pre-Clinical Medical Education While Improving Community Cardiovascular Health: An Evaluation of the Keep Your Heart Healthy Program, Maya Raman, BA BS; Jennifer Joy VanderWeele, BA; Sarah Uttal, BS; Neelima Agrawal, BS; Kevin C Lewis, BA; Eric Stulberg, BS; Rabih Dahdouh, MS; Hongyan Ning, MD MS; Stephen Havas, MD MPH MS (March 2018)

April 4, 2013 | CDPH, Northwestern and the GE Foundation Team Up to Save Lives through Innovative New Heart Initiative

March 3, 2015 | Mayor Emanuel Announces CDPH Expanding Innovative Heart Screening Program to Four More Neighborhoods

April 24, 2014 | Northwestern Medicine Students to Screen Chicagoans For Heart Disease, Feinberg partners with City of Chicago to screen up to 50,000 residents

May 24, 2014 | Northwestern medical students perform heart screenings in Humboldt Park

Follow @KYHH_Chicago on Twitter to keep up with ongoing events and news!



Principal Investigator


Stephen Havas, MD/MPH

Professor in Preventive Medicine-Epidemiology

Contact Us

If you are interested in learning more about our research, opportunities for collaborating or training opportunities, please contact Dr. Havas at