As part of the federal response to COVID-19, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) today announced a new initiative involving two cooperative agreements with the American Heart Association to improve COVID-19-related health outcomes by addressing hypertension (high blood pressure) among racial and ethnic minority populations. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, having high blood pressure may increase the risk of severe illness from COVID-19.
The $32 million project from the HHS Office of Minority Health (OMH) and the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) Bureau of Primary Health Care will implement a national initiative to improve blood pressure control among the most vulnerable populations, including racial and ethnic minorities. The project will support participating HRSA-funded health centers by providing patient and provider education and training for effective hypertension control. According to the 2020 Surgeon General's Call to Action to Control Hypertension, "high blood pressure continues to be a leading risk factor for heart disease, furthermore, social determinants of health, such as inequalities in the distribution of social, economic, and environmental conditions needed for health, have been associated with hypertension risk among non-Hispanic blacks and other minority groups."
"COVID-19 has taken an especially heavy toll on racial and ethnic minority populations, and underlying conditions, such as hypertension, are leading to more severe outcomes," said Assistant Secretary for Health ADM Brett P. Giroir, M.D. "Part of fighting the impact of COVID-19 in the most vulnerable communities is fighting the underlying chronic conditions associated with worse COVID-19 outcomes."
The three-year project will integrate remote blood pressure monitoring technology into treatment of hypertension for patients served by participating HRSA-funded health centers. The project will also support the American Heart Association's targeted media campaigns to help reach Black, Latino, and other impacted communities with culturally and linguistically appropriate messages.
"Our partnership with HRSA and the American Heart Association will help address long-standing racial and ethnic disparities in blood pressure control that are contributing to the disparate impact of COVID-19 within our communities of color," said Deputy Assistant Secretary for Minority Health RADM Felicia Collins, M.D.
"The Health Center Program provides preventive and primary care services to nearly 30 million people across the country, including 63% who are racial and ethnic minorities," said HRSA Administrator Tom Engels. "Improving heart health has been a goal of health centers, and this has become more important than ever considering the impact of COVID-19 on medically underserved and minority communities."
Funding for the initiative includes $14.5 million from the HRSA Bureau of Primary Health Care and $17.5 million from OMH COVID-19 supplemental funding.