African Americans in Alabama get help to fight cardiovascular disease and stroke

African Americans living in parts of Alabama will get improved access to community-based health services to prevent heart attacks and strokes through a new public, private partnership led by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).

The Morehouse School of Medicine and HHS awarded $900,000 to the National Baptist Convention, USA, Inc. to target three counties in Alabama where African Americans face significantly high rates of cardiovascular disease. The National Baptist Convention will build on the strengths of faith-based organizations to connect communities to vital health care resources like hypertension management services, including blood pressure monitoring, free or low-cost medication, and patient counseling and education.
The Million Hearts Stroke Belt Project is being funded jointly through the HHS Office of Minority Health (OMH) and the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services Office of Minority Health (CMS/OMH).

“Partnerships that help reduce health disparities and save lives is our priority at HHS,” said J. Nadine Gracia, M.D., M.S.C.E., deputy assistant secretary for minority health. “This project helps educate and empower people to reduce their risk of heart disease and stroke.”
“The Affordable Care Act has made preventive services more accessible to Americans, including those at higher risk of heart disease and stroke,” said Cara V. James Ph.D., CMS/ OMH director.
African Americans are 30 percent more likely to die from heart disease, according to 2009 data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. African Americans living in Alabama – one of the states that comprises an area referred to as the “Stroke Belt” – lack access to health care. Fifty-four of the 67 counties in Alabama have a shortage of primary medical care, dental or mental health providers.

The Million Hearts Stroke Belt Project seeks to reverse this trend.  The project supports the Million Hearts initiative, which counts on public, private partnerships to help prevent one million heart attacks and strokes by 2017. The project is a key part of the HHS Action Plan to Reduce Racial and Ethnic Health Disparities and the National Prevention Strategy to reduce health disparities among racial and ethnic minorities.

Together, OMH and CMS/OMH operations are dedicated to improving the health of racial and ethnic minority populations through the development of health policies and programs that will help eliminate health disparities. To learn more, visit:

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