Origins of the National High Blood Pressure Education Program (NHBPEP) and the National Cholesterol Education Program (NCEP)
The National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI) provided the following statement in response to an inquiry about the origins of the NHBPEP and the NCEP:
Although no specific legislation established the programs per se, both were created under broad legislative mandates for the NHLBI and its predecessor, the National Heart and Lung Institute (NHLI), to disseminate health information.
On June 12, 1972, Elliot L. Richardson, Secretary of the Department of Health, Education, and Welfare, approved a nationwide program for high blood pressure information and education – an action for which he received the prestigious Albert Lasker Public Service Award in 1978. The NHBPEP was officially launched the following month. Impetus for the program was a confluence of sound scientific evidence that high blood pressure could be detected easily and lowered with drug therapy, and that such measures diminished rates of stroke and other complications and saved lives. In September 1972, the National Heart, Blood Vessel, and Lung Act of 1972 (Public Law 92-433) provided broad legislative authority for the NHLI to "conduct a program to provide the public and health professionals with health information."
In November 1985, the NHLBI inaugurated the NCEP. Impetus for the program came from years of scientific evidence linking blood cholesterol levels to coronary heart disease (CHD), the finding from the Lipid Research Clinics Coronary Primary Prevention Trial that lowering high blood cholesterol reduces the risk of CHD, and – most proximately – a recommendation from the December 1984 Consensus Development Conference on Lowering Blood Cholesterol to Prevent Heart Disease that a national education program on cholesterol be developed. Coincidentally, the Health Research Extension Act of 1985 (Public Law 99-158) specifically directed the NHLBI Director to "collect, identify, analyze, and disseminate...to patients, families of patients, physicians and other health professionals, and the general public, information on research, prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of heart, blood vessel, lung, and blood diseases, [and] the maintenance of health to reduce the incidence of such diseases...."
Over the years, the NHLBI has reported to Congress, via its annual Budget Justification and discussions at its House and Senate Appropriations Hearings, on the activities and successes of the NHBPEP and the NCEP.