- John W. Farquhar, M.D.
A cardiologist, is Professor of Medicine and Health Research and Policy, Founder of the Stanford Prevention Research Center (SPRC) and the first holder of the C. F. Rehnborg Professorship in Disease Prevention in the Stanford University School of Medicine. He is also Director of the World Health Organization (WHO) Collaborating Center for Chronic Disease Prevention. He was born in Winnipeg, Canada and moved to the United States with his family at the age of 13.
Dr. Farquhar began his interest in disease prevention shortly after graduating from Medical School, when he realized that far too many men and women in our society were dying young. This concern led him to specialize in cardiology and the metabolic origins of atherosclerosis. Four years at the Rockefeller University and early research after he joined the Stanford faculty in 1962 gave him a solid grounding in the causes of heart disease, stroke and diabetes. From his experience with his patients he realized that cardiovascular disease was caused largely by cultural and environmental factors that create our health habits and suggested to him the need for a "total community" approach.
In 1968, he was a pioneer in anticipating an urgent need for medicine to move toward prevention. Therefore, he embarked on a major career change, spending a year at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine to acquire the basic epidemiological training he would need to devise a community-based approach to the cardiovascular disease epidemic. Returning to Stanford, Dr. Farquhar found a nucleus of like-minded researchers and they began in 1971 with the ground-breaking Three-Community Study, in which two "education" communities each received three years of education through newspapers, radio, television and direct mail. In one community, people at high risk also received a measure of direct face-to-face instruction.
His group showed that media alone could be very effective in reducing risk for all segments of the population at a relatively low cost. It led to the Stanford Five City Project, in which 135,000 people in a total population of 365,000 were exposed to a long-term educational program. The project also achieved significant success, again at low cost, which if replicated nationwide could result in major health benefits. The project also provided evidence that technology transfer can empower local communities to achieve health benefits using local resources. A growing number of community demonstration programs patterned after the Stanford projects are now underway. For example, the WHO now supports 16 projects in 13 countries outside of Europe and another 15 projects in the European region alone.
Since the conclusion of the intervention stage of the Five City Project, Dr. Farquhar's group has expanded its work beyond cardiovascular disease into women's health, substance abuse, violence and injuries, advanced nutrition research, health of minorities and international health. The women's health research has focused on prevention of heart attack, stroke, breast cancer, osteoporosis and adolescent pregnancy. The substance abuse and violence research has proved that the most effective way to curb these problems is via enhanced school curricula and community empowerment. The Stanford group's minority health research has focused on how to close the gap between health of minorities and other groups. Dr. Farquhar's team has worked directly with African American, Latino and Native American groups to help them organize and mobilize their own communities to improve health. The SPRC has not only made many contributions in all aspects of disease prevention but also has often influenced the nation's health policy decisions. Dr. Farquhar himself is an author of numerous scientific articles and books ranging widely from lipid biochemistry to international health policy. His book, "The American Way of Life Need Not be Hazardous to Your Health" was a landmark when first published in 1979 and symbolizes well his ability to provide clear concepts and effective methods for disease prevention. His work also includes many clinical research studies on diabetes, blood lipids, obesity, and exercise.
In the United States, the SPRC functions as a world-recognized health promotion resource center, and has distributed well over 2 million pieces of health education print materials worldwide, and many more through the internet. Serving as one of the WHO's Collaborating Centers for Chronic Disease Prevention, SCRDP also participates in providing training and practical assistance to health groups of many nations. For example, Dr. Farquhar chaired the writing of the 1992 "Victoria Declaration on Heart Health" with sixty-four specific policy recommendations for the reduction of cardiovascular disease globally. This document, now in thirteen languages, contains policies ranging from regulations regarding tobacco use to the special educational needs of women and minorities. He is also the principal author of the 1995 policy document: "The Catalonia Declaration: Investing in Heart Health," which describes many specific small examples of preventive medicine in action that makes it clear that many prevention programs have yielded benefits greater than cost. This document also provides convincing evidence that in the absence of wise investment, long-term economic losses in both developed and developing countries are probable.
Dr. Farquhar carries out considerable public service including:
• 1974 - Chair, Epidemiology and Biometry Advisory Committee, National Heart & Lung Institute
• 1983 - 1990 - Consultant, German American Scientific Treaty
• 1985 - 1999 - Director, WHO Collaborating Center for Chronic Disease Prevention
• 1987 - 1989 Senior Advisor, US Preventive Service Task Force
• 1988 - 1993 Member, Institute of Medicine Committees on Nutrition and the Women's Health Initiative
• 1992 - Chair, Victoria Declaration International Implementation Group
• 1994 - Founding member, International Chinese Heart Health Network
• 1995, 1998 Chair, Catalonia and Singapore Declarations on Heart Health
• 2001 - Founding member, International Heart Health Society
• 2009 – Member, Institute of Medicine Committee to Prevent the Spread of Cardiovascular Disease in Developing Countries
Dr. Farquhar has received many honors, including:
• 1952 - First in his class and recipient of the prestigious Gold-Headed Cane, University of California Medical School, San Francisco
• 1978 - Election to the Institute of Medicine (National Academy of Sciences), based on his pioneering research in community-based prevention of heart attack and stroke
• 1983 - James D. Bruce Memorial Award for Excellence in Preventive Medicine, the American College of Physicians
• 1990 - Charles A. Dana Foundation Award for Pioneering Achievements in Health
• 1991 - 1992 - President, Society of Behavioral Medicine
• 1991 - National Cholesterol Award for Public Education, Natnl Cholest Ed Program
• 1992 - Research Achievement Award of the American Heart Association
• 1995 - Member, Society of Saint George, Autonomous Government of Catalonia
• 1999 - Joseph Stokes Award in Preventive Cardiology, Am Soc Preventive Cardiology
• 2000 - Ancel Keys Lecturer, American Heart Association’s 73rd Scientific Sessions
• 2005 - Fries Prize, given annually for “the Person who most Improved the Public’s Health”