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The American Heart Association selects Tuskegee University researchers to study hypertension with focus on health equity

September 02, 2021

Contact: Kawana McGough, Office of Communications, Public Relations and Marketing
 

Dr. Clayton Yates and Dr. Norma Dawkins
Yates and Dawkins

The American Heart Association, the world’s leading voluntary organization dedicated to a world of longer, healthier lives, has awarded $20 million in grants to five research teams focused on finding ways to prevent high blood pressure in underserved populations. The pair from Tuskegee University will support the fast-track advancement of science to prevent hypertension particularly in communities of color.

The American Heart Association selected Dr. Clayton Yates, professor of biology and director of the university’s multidisciplinary Center for Biomedical Research and Dr. Norma Dawkins, professor and head of the Department of Food and Nutritional Science to work on the project. Tuskegee’s role will be beneficial in providing insight to developing solutions that address concerns such as food insecurity and limited access to recreational facilities.

“This award will enable the development of tailored interventions to overcome a number of barriers that residents in the Black Belt are facing, such as achieving health equity in the prevention of hypertension,” explained Yates.

The research project will focus on hypertension prevention in underserved populations with historically the highest prevalence of this mostly preventable, but potentially deadly condition.

The Health Equity Research Network (HERN) on the Prevention of Hypertension is part of the multi-pronged approach of the American Heart Association’s unprecedented pledge to aggressively address social determinants of health while working to improve health equity for all communities.

“High blood pressure is a leading risk factor of heart disease and stroke that can often be prevented or managed if diagnosed and treated properly. However, there are significant racial and ethnic disparities in both the prevalence of hypertension and its management,” said Donald Lloyd-Jones, M.D., Sc.D., FAHA, president of the American Heart Association and chair of the department of preventive medicine at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine in Chicago. “Uncontrolled hypertension is particularly acute in communities of color. We are excited to launch this new research initiative to support the fast-track advancement of science to prevent hypertension with a focus on health equity.”

In addition, other team members on the grant include the University of Alabama at Birmingham School of Medicine and Public Health. A team of scientists from Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston, Johns Hopkins University School of Nursing in Baltimore, NYU Grossman School of Medicine in New York City and Wayne State University in Detroit will lead the community engaged research projects. A separate team at NYU will serve as the coordinating center for the network to help train the next generation of hypertension health equity researchers, providing consultation and guidance, compiling data reports, and coordinating the administration of the initiative.

“High blood pressure is a leading risk factor for heart disease and stroke that can often be prevented or managed if diagnosed and treated properly. However, there are significant racial and ethnic disparities in both the prevalence of hypertension and its management,” said Robert J. Dabal, M.D., president of the American Heart Association in Birmingham and chief of the section of congenital heart surgery at UAB and Children’s of Alabama. “Uncontrolled hypertension is particularly acute in communities of color. We are excited to launch this new research initiative to support the fast-track advancement of science to prevent hypertension with a focus on health equity.”

The projects, which commence on Oct. 1, 2021, include:

EPIPHANY: Equity in Prevention and Progression of Hypertension by Addressing barriers to Nutrition and Physical Activity at the University of Alabama at Birmingham – led by Andrea Cherrington, M.D., M.P.H., professor in the Division of Preventive Medicine. This team will work with 16 churches in rural Alabama. From those churches, they’ll recruit Black adults with elevated blood pressure not treated for hypertension to take part in one of two interventions. People from eight of the churches will receive group health education and personal computer tablets to access online cooking shows and exercise classes. People in the other eight churches will receive group health education, access to online cooking shows and exercise classes, plus peer support from a trained Community Health Worker to help set and meet diet and physical activity goals. Churches randomized to peer support will also receive funding for community-level interventions to promote healthy foods and/or physical activity opportunities.

Other investigators at UAB are Suzanne Oparil, M.D., professor in the Department of Medicine, School of Medicine; Paul Muntner, Ph.D., associate dean for research, Shakia Hardy, Ph.D., assistant professor, Department of Epidemiology and Lonnie Hannon, Ph.D., associate professor, Department of Health Behavior, School of Public Health. The UAB team will also work in collaboration with investigators from Tuskegee University, including Drs. Clayton Yates and Norma Dawkins.


About the American Heart Association

The American Heart Association is a relentless force for a world of longer, healthier lives. We are dedicated to ensuring equitable health in all communities. Through collaboration with numerous organizations, and powered by millions of volunteers, we fund innovative research, advocate for the public’s health and share lifesaving resources. The Dallas-based organization has been a leading source of health information for nearly a century. Connect with us on heart.org, Facebook, Twitter or by calling 1-800-AHA-USA1.

© 2021 Tuskegee University