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    Getting to the Heart of the Matter


    Each year, more women die from heart disease than from breast, ovarian and uterine cancer combined. In Georgia, women die at a rate of 387/100,000 – 9 percent higher than the national average. To increase awareness surrounding the risk and other facts about the disease, every February is recognized as National Heart Month. National health observances such as these serve as an opportunity for public health and medical professionals, consumer groups and others to educate the public about health risks through health promotion events and campaigns; and share new research, information and resources. With this two-pronged approach, there lies the potential to educate, motivate and mobilize people to take advantage of local resources and research to help them lead healthier lives.

    Promoting Heart Health
    Raising awareness of heart disease is part of Morehouse School of Medicine’s commitment to having a positive impact on the community, particularly among vulnerable populations. Its Women With Heart Initiative educates Georgians about heart health risks and prevention tips for African-American women through a scholarship fund, fundraiser and marketing program. The initiative kicked off in conjunction with National Heart Month and events included health screenings and personal testimonies of heart disease survivors. “Morehouse School of Medicine is committed to discovering the cause and cure of health inequities such as heart disease,” said Dr. Valerie Montgomery Rice, dean and executive vice president. “We train primary care physicians to not only understand the biological determinants of illness and health, but also the social, and this will make a difference in the heart health of the nation.”

    Women With Heart also partnered with The Heart Truth to create a national movement aimed at delivering an urgent wake-up call to women about heart disease. The Heart Truth campaign sponsored by the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute is vital to giving women life-saving messages about their risk for heart disease and how to lower it. It’s through events, community partnerships and concerted efforts like these that the message of improving health and well being can reach a wide audience. Awareness extends beyond advertising or marketing as it equips people with the knowledge and tools to take action.

    Preventing Heart Disease with Research
    Research plays a critical role in understanding preventative measures, especially when identifying the cause of health disparities. For example, African-American women are at greater risk for heart disease than any other ethnic group. Morehouse School of Medicine focuses its research on diseases, such as cardio metabolic diseases, that disproportionately affect minority communities. Over the past 15 years, as a member of the faculty at Morehouse School of Medicine, Dr. Elizabeth Ofili has established partnerships with community physicians in primary and specialty care, to improve the quality of care that is delivered to underserved patients. “In my practice at Morehouse School of Medicine, I see minority and predominantly African American patients with considerable risk factors for heart disease,” says Dr. Ofili. “My practice, research, and teaching are an opportunity to make a difference in the burden of heart disease among African Americans.”

    In recent research published by Dr. Ofili a clinical trial showed comparable blood pressure (BP) lowering by valsartan/hydrochlorothiazide and amlodipine/ hydrochlorothiazide in obese hypertensive patients. Relative to amlodipine/hydrochlorothiazide, valsartan/hydrochlorothiazide reduced the hyperglycemic response to glucose challenge. An objective of this post hoc analysis was to determine whether this benefit extended to African Americans and whites.

    In this particular clinical trial, treatments reduced clinic BP from baseline to all visits (P < 0.0001), regardless of race/ethnicity (126 African Americans, 212 whites). In African Americans, there were no significant between-treatment differences in clinic or ambulatory BP lowering at weeks 8 or 16. Whites responded better to valsartan/hydrochlorothiazide. In both racial/ethnic subgroups, the addition of valsartan but not amlodipine mitigated the hyperglycemic response to hydrochlorothiazide through enhanced insulin secretion. Valsartan/hydrochlorothiazide was as effective as amlodipine/hydrochlorothiazide was in reducing BP in obese, hypertensive African Americans and better than amlodipine/hydrochlorothiazide in whites.

    Both the promotional and research aspects of Morehouse School of Medicine’s approach to heart disease are examples of how it fulfills its mission of addressing primary healthcare needs through programs in education, research and service with emphasis on people of
    color.

    Atlanta Hospital News