Thirty-five million Americans suffer from high blood pressure, the "silent killer" which contributes to almost one million heart and stroke deaths each year. These hypertension-related deaths represent 51 percent of all deaths from all causes in any one year, and on the economic front, cost the nation over $50 billion a year.
Since the launching of the campaign against high blood pressure, the national age-adjusted death rate from heart diseases has declined over 15 percent between 1973 and 1977, and the national age-adjusted death rate from stroke has declined 20 percent during the same period. Furthermore, primarily as a result of cuts in the death rate from these diseases, the nation's 1975 and 1976 overall crude death rates, from all causes, were at 8.9 per thousand population, the lowest in our history.
For Elliot Richardson's foresight in recognizing a neglected public health need, for his appreciation of the potential cost-effectiveness and human benefits of a successfully carried-out campaign, and for his life-saving decision officially to inaugurate the National High Blood Pressure Education Program—which alerted laymen and physicians to the dangers of high blood pressure and stimulated the use of existing medical knowledge for its control—this Albert Lasker Special Service Award is given.