AHA Central Texas addressing health disparities in Eastern Crescent through strategic partnerships

The 1928 Master Plan of the City of Austin was the comprehensive city plan where racial segregation was institutionalized by using East Avenue, now known as IH-35, as a dividing line between Black and Latino communities and white communities. This is still seen today where, for example, the Rosewood area in East Austin, has a life expectancy of about 72 whereas the life expectancy is 11 years longer five miles away in West Austin on the other side of I-35 (Austin American Statesman, 2019). Mt. Zion Baptist Church is in the Rosewood area and has a long history as one of the many churches serving the Black and African American community of Austin and surrounding areas.

The AMEN (African American Mental Health and Wellness) Program, is a well-established initiative developed to support the mental and physical health of African American residents, run by the University of Texas at Austin School of Nursing and University of Texas Division of Diversity and Community Engagement (DDCE). With the support of the Central Texas American Heart Association staff, the UT School of Nursing AMEN staff implemented a Screen, Educate and Refer initiative to further their mission to “Reduce health disparity gaps through a comprehensive community-based program to improve mental health and physical wellness outcomes of African Americans (AAs) with limited access to quality care.”

AHA supplied AMEN with 100 validated blood pressure monitors, sponsored by Abbott, to provide ongoing high blood pressure self-management support for the 1200 members at Mt. Zion Baptist and Rehoboth Baptist Churches and surrounding community. In addition, sixty community members will be enrolled into a culturally tailored, technology-based, mobile health research study to test innovative ways to support and sustain blood pressure self-management. Beginning on Sunday, February 6th, screening, and
intervention will be conducted by trained CHWs and nursing students in 12-week increments.

Volunteers conducting screenings (CHWs and nursing students) will be trained on accurate blood pressure management prior to involvement and on an annual basis. AHA also provided resources for tailored education on needed interventions to participants. Participants who are identified as hypertensive and agree to participate in the app-based research program will be enrolled in the study. Those who are not eligible or choose not to participate will be referred to the Black Men’s Health Clinic, the School of Nursing Family Wellness Center, or another health center if they do not have an established primary care provider.

AMEN was introduced as the focus of the AHA Central Texas Market’s EmPOWERED to Serve Ambassador program. Locally, ambassadors were recruited to act upon localized solutions to ultimately help under-resourced communities attain better life outcomes. The Screen, Educate and Refer initiative at Mt. Zion was the perfect opportunity to accomplish this.

AMEN and AHA are working together to create an effective plan to disseminate information about high blood pressure to increase awareness in underserved communities (e.g., appropriate media campaigns, flyers in churches, barbershops and/or popular grocery stores). The ultimate goal is to expand this initiative into additional churches and community organizations, engaging additional volunteers. Through the implementation of this initiative, AMEN is driving heart health awareness, education, and control within the underserved areas of Austin.

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