Interventional Consultant Cardiologist and CardioKit Project Lead
I started the Cardiologist’s Kitchen medium blog on the 1st January 2015 after spending more and more time during my professional life talking to patients about dietary changes that could make a profound difference to their cardiovascular health. The Cardiologist’s Kitchen blog then became an outlet to support those conversations and provide a resource for patients. My own interest in this area was born out of a genuine passion for food, cooking and ingredients.
Increasingly I became networked in the food industry and this also started to attract interest from the media as a kind of “cooking cardiologist”. It was obvious that the glossy main stream media and the marketing strategies of the food industry were far better at reaching our patients and the public than any medical initiative. We could learn from these industries and use the same tactics but in a positive way from within healthcare and based on evidence.
The blog started to rapidly increase in popularity but in parallel I started to think about a more universal project. It would be difficult to scale the concept without wider support. Conversations with the food industry and inertia within healthcare were frustrating — positive feedback but limited appetite to do something new (despite the frequent use of the word “innovation” in both industries). At the same time I was collecting a portfolio of patient success stories ; conditions getting better, tablet burden reducing, quality of life improving and a general message asking “why didn’t anyone tell us this stuff before?”. It was important that we did something.
Towards the end of 2015 I put in place a detailed plan and applied to The Health Foundation for a national innovation award. You will note that around this time posts on the Cardiologist’s Kitchen blog dropped off (and correspondingly so did our followers) but I was motivated by the bigger picture. Following several rounds of application and interview we were successful in being selected by The Health Foundation for an award. Since then the focus has been on developing and evolving that plan and we are now launching our project . . . time to reveal what we have been doing and why things have been quiet for a while.
“Ingredients for a healthy life” (photo by Matt Inwood)
Although all cardiovascular risk factors are driven by diet and lifestyle, in the first instance we will focus on blood pressure (hypertension). Hypertension has overtaken smoking in the UK as the leading risk factor for health problems down the line but is a very obvious target for something that can be improved or avoided through diet. Despite all international guidelines recommending diet and lifestyle as the first step in the treatment of high blood pressure, this is not really achieved in healthcare and tablet treatment becomes the standard.
However, medical information and advice even where available are not enough. What we need are real life solutions and we have to bring together elements from glossy mass media (who are successful at communication), the food industry (who provide the ingredients but are better at manipulating behaviour towards low cost or high margin products) and healthcare (who need to move on from boring and outdated initiatives).
How does it work?
The project is open to all and we need all the support and engagement we can get, but in the first instance our pilot food producers phase will be local.
- If you have new or existing high blood pressure you will be offered a CardioKit pack when visiting our partner GPs. The pack contains information on how to lower blood pressure through diet and incentives and links to our local heathy food producers.
- This website form a central hub which brings together all this information (in READ and along with recipes in COOK), the incentives (in SAVE for everyone and in CARDIOKIT for patients). It links a community for evidence based diet and health solutions. It will be continually updated with the latest offers, recipes and ideas.
- Our incentives will help you save money but also provide inspiration and links to local retailers and producers who we feel are doing great work by combining health, locality and seasonality. This will include eating out establishments and even homemade ready meals.
- This website will offer a direct delivery service where you can order a box of local healthy food. The CardioKit Team will be doing the same at home and writing about our ‘ingredients of the month’ with further ideas, recipes and information.
- The packs, website and links to evidence based information and local healthy food producers then form a recycling journey that should be fun and engaging.
- You lower your high blood pressure and reduce the need for tablets by eating well and helping support local food producers.
We need your support
We want to emphasise that although we are working with local food producers and our affiliate market place will only be available in Bath and North East Somerset and some of Wiltshire, we need support from everyone. The website will continue to post recipes, information and ideas that should be of interest to anyone with a desire to improve their health through what they buy, cook and eat.
Our success is very much dependent on you — we need to demonstrate engagement and interest from a wider audience. Only this will provide us with the critical mass to attract national interest that will provide the support to expand and disseminate. Ultimately we are building a trusted brand that has been born from within healthcare but combines health, food and media.
We would love for you to sign-up, support and get involved in our project.
It’s all very exciting. Thank you for your interest.