Objectives. The Minnesota Heart Health Program is a 13-year research and demonstration project to reduce morbidity and mortality from coronary heart disease in whole communities. Methods. Three pairs of communities were matched on size and type; each pair had one education site and one comparison site. After baseline surveys, a 5- to 6-year program of mass media, community organization, and direct education for risk reduction was begun in the education communities, whereas surveys continued in all sites. Results. Many intervention components proved effective in targeted groups. However, against a background of strong secular trends of increasing health promotion and declining risk factors, the overall program effects were modest in size and duration and generally within chance levels. Conclusions. These findings suggest that even such an intense program may not be able to generate enough additional exposure to risk reduction messages and activities in a large enough fraction of the population to accelerate the remarkably favorable secular trends in health promotion activities and in most coronary heart disease risk factors present in the study communities.