There has been increasing recognition of the detrimental impact of peripheral arterial disease (PAD) on the health of Americans, and yet there is no common national program of public PAD education designed to diminish this impact. To heighten awareness of this problem, a 2-day PAD Public Education Strategy Meeting was recently attended by representatives of 17 professional societies and public health associations whose missions support the prevention, diagnosis, treatment, and rehabilitation of vascular diseases. This Public Education Strategy Meeting was intended to provide the rationale and structure to create a national PAD public awareness campaign to diminish the health impact of PAD, and to improve cardiovascular outcomes in the USA. This paper: (1) provides the rationale for creation of a national PAD public education program; (2) reviews the development and success of national hypertension, hypercholesterolemia, and Women's Heart Health public education programs as models of educational efficacy; (3) elucidates how the work of many vascular professionals has led to a national consensus for creation of a national PAD public educational program; (4) provides an overview of the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute PAD education meeting; and (5) outlines the 'next steps' required to accomplish these goals. This meeting achieved consensus that we share responsibility for developing accurate, unified messages to promote PAD awareness and improved care. Participants agreed that the creation of such messages should be linked to plans to disseminate them to all Americans at risk. A consensus was reached that such messages, when commonly created and offered to the public, are most likely to achieve the rewards in better health that all Americans deserve. The Vascular Disease Foundation, a not-for-profit foundation whose mission includes public education regarding the prevention, diagnosis, treatment, and rehabilitation of PAD, will devote its resources to guide a new coalition in this process and to create a national PAD awareness campaign. During 2003 and 2004, the coalition will create the organizational underpinnings and timeline for what will undoubtedly be a multi-year effort. In conclusion, participants of the Public Education Strategy Meeting agreed to create a broad coalition to develop a national PAD public awareness program, with the objectives to develop and disseminate public education messages on PAD. A successful national PAD education program will contribute to the creation of a broader mandate to improve global cardiovascular health in the USA.