Combating Cardiovascular Disease: How North Carolina Policymakers Can Change Human Health Behavior

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Cardiovascular disease (CVD) kills more people in the United States than any other cause or non-communicable disease, and North Carolina exhibits higher-than-average CVD mortality rates as a southern state in the “stroke buckle.” However, the population can prevent CVD through healthy behaviors related to diet and physical activity. NC policymakers can influence these human health behaviors and reduce the prevalence of CVD in the state through three primary channels: campaign interventions, food and soda taxes, and environment and infrastructure changes. After conducting research across nine case studies, three within each category, and interviewing NC health policy experts, I synthesized the lessons learned and best practices from both sources and developed a policy recommendation for the state. Policy Recommendation - North Carolina policymakers should execute a campaign intervention and enforce new environment and infrastructure policies to begin changing population norms about health. The campaign intervention should focus on a single, simple message, communicated through multiple media outlets. Campaign leaders should also partner with local faith leaders to increase legitimacy in church communities across NC. Simultaneously with the campaign intervention, policymakers should alter state environment and infrastructure by changing zoning laws, WIC and food stamp programs, and increasing access to free public transportation. In the long-term, policymakers should implement a soda and junk food tax once the state’s cultural and political climates have evolved and allow for more radical changes.





Callaway, Hadley Patton (2015). Combating Cardiovascular Disease: How North Carolina Policymakers Can Change Human Health Behavior. Honors thesis, Duke University. Retrieved from

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