Patient Engagement

American Heart Month: An Emerging Opportunity for FQHCs

It’s recently been in the news that, while some health markers in the U.S. are improving, heart disease continues to be an issue. At CareMessage, we see this as an opportunity. 

We believe that the country can realize the same successes in heart disease, and that American Heart Month is a great time to explore how FQHCs can contribute. 

The State of Heart Disease

Heart disease has been making a comeback in the United States, and in ways that might surprise you. Middle-aged people are dying more often from the disease, even in areas that are well-known for health and fitness. This is largely attributed to the rise in contributing factors such as stress and obesity

Here’s what heart disease looks like in the U.S. today, according to the CDC

  • It’s the leading cause of death for men, women, and most racial and ethnic groups in the country.

  • 805,000 Americans have a heart attack every year.

  • Every 37 seconds, one person dies from cardiovascular disease.

  • 1 in every 4 deaths each year is attributable to heart disease, that’s 647,000 Americans.

  • Coronary heart disease is the most common form.

  • 2 in 10 deaths from coronary artery disease occur in adults under 65.

While these numbers profile Americans in general, according to a recent report in JAMA cardiology, disparities are strongly driven by economic issues. In lower income brackets, people are often highly focused on food and housing, meaning preventive measures like exercise, healthy eating habits, and even doctors appointments can be pushed to the back burner. These problems are often compounded by mental health challenges, transportation issues, and addictions. 

At the same time, according to Heart.org, lower-income communities often struggle to invest in healthcare facilities and to attract healthcare workers. 

A Hopeful Road Forward 

These facts present a steep challenge, but around the country, we’re seeing progress. 

In January, researchers released results from a study in Appalachian Kentucky — an area that falls toward the bottom in economic measures and in the top 1% for cardiovascular disease, partly because of limited educational opportunities, a need for spaces to exercise, and food deserts. 

The team from the University of Kentucky partnered with a well-established clinic to enroll 355 people in a 12-week self-care course. A year later, the researchers found that participants had largely succeeded in meeting their goals — 88% hit their blood pressure targets compared to 18% in a control group. Similar results were seen in cholesterol levels and body weight. 

Recent news has also revealed that heart disease has dropped across a generation over the past quarter century among American Indians in three regions, according to JAHA

The American Heart Association also released news late last year of a polypill that’s been found to lower heart disease risk in underserved patients through simplifying medication regimens. The study comprised 303 patients who made less than $15,000 a year. The average age was 56, 95% of the participants were Black, and 60% were women. 

The pill, which contains four medicines known to lower blood pressure — atorvastatin (10mg), amlodipine (2.5 mg), losartan (25 mg) and hydrochlorothiazide (12.5 mg) — yielded 86% medication adherence along with drops in blood pressure, LDL cholesterol, and a 25% reduction in the risk of a cardiovascular event. 

At CareMessage, we view this recent news as inspiring in the fight to improve the lives of underserved patients, and a testament to the importance of raising awareness, continual support in lifestyle changes, and patient engagement and education. 

If you’d like to dedicate this February to learning how you can leverage text messaging to take action in all those areas, fill out the form below and we’ll be glad to be in touch.  

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