Community ownership and maintenance of heart health programs was a major study goal of the Minnesota Heart Health Program (MHHP), a community-based National Heart, Blood and Lung Institute (NIH)-funded demonstration project. A partnership between the University of Minnesota and three Upper Midwest intervention communities was initiated in 1981. Local citizen boards were instrumental in planning, implementing and incorporating programs. Through an 8 year process of community organization, training and volunteer involvement, MHHP educational program responsibility was transferred to existing community-based groups and organizations. In 1989, when federal funding was withdrawn, 70% of all heart health intervention programs initiated by MHHP were being continued by local sponsors and supported by local funds. By 1992, maintenance of programs had decreased to an average 60%. Differential results of program incorporation among the three intervention communities are presented including findings on community sectors that most frequently sponsored programs. Factors that facilitate or impede local ownership are discussed. Research on longer-term maintenance of heart health programs in the three communities continues.