The National Institutes of Health (NIH) awarded a $8.7 million grant to Tulane University to study the impact that churches can have in contributing to the elimination of cardiovascular health disparities among African Americans. As part of this socially innovative initiative, Tulane will embark on an effort to recruit and train community health workers to implement a comprehensive health and lifestyle coaching program for congregants predominantly African American churches in New Orleans and Bogalusa, Louisiana. Led by the guidance in the 2019 American College of Cardiology and American Heart Association Guideline on the Primary Prevention of Cardiovascular Disease, the principles behind this program zero in on the mission of improving cholesterol numbers and addressing high blood pressure as well as controlling other risk factors.
African American Risks
While heart disease is the number one cause of death for both men and women in the United States, rates for African Americans are higher than the norm; the demographic group faces disproportionately high burden of cardiovascular disease due to a number of factors from lifestyle elements to diet and limited access to healthcare combined with higher rates of obesity and perhaps other risks reports the study’s principal investigator, Dr. Jiang He, professor of the Department of Epidemiology at Tulane University School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine.
The seven-year study, Church-based Health Intervention to Eliminate Racial Inequalities in Cardiovascular Health (CHERISH), will begin with a three-year planning phase where researchers will identify and collaborate with 42 churches. The study will work with 1,050 church members age 40 and above who will be randomly placed in one of two groups for an 18-month program. One group will meet with community health workers at church for health coaching, diet counseling, advice on medication adherence and help coordinating healthcare. The control group will only receive health information material and attend group health sessions.
NIH Alliance Involves African American Investigators
This important study is part of the NIH Coordinated Interventions to Prevent and Control Heart and Lung Disease Risk Alliance, involving the collaboration of seven universities and a coordinating center in a quest to address persistent and in many cases growing disparities in cardiovascular and pulmonary health by race, ethnicity, gender and other factors involving the social determinants of health. Called CHERISH, its led by Dr. Keith C. Ferdinand, the Gerald S. Berenson Endowed Chair in preventive cardiology at the School of Medicine, who is a national leader in community-based research for cardiovascular disease.
Ferdinand also established the Healthy Heart Community Prevention Project, which has served the New Orleans African American community for more than 30 years in cardiovascular disease risk reduction, health screening and intervention.
Additionally, Thomas LaVeist, PhD, Featherhead Presidential Chair in Health Equity and dean of the School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine, will be a co-investigator. He is an expert in racial and socioeconomic disparities in health and healthcare. Marcia Ory, PhD, Regents and Distinguished Professor at Texas A&M School of Public Health, will lend her expertise in implementation science to the study. Other Tulane co-investigators include Jing Chen, PhD, professor of medicine; Dr. Lydia Bazzano, PhD, Lynda B. and H. Leighton Steward professor in nutrition research and professor of medicine; Katherine Mills, PhD, assistant professor of epidemiology; Jeanette Gustat, PhD, associate professor of epidemiology; Hua He, PhD, associate professor of epidemiology, and Lizheng Shi, PhD, professor and interim chair of health policy and management.
Tulane Lead Research/Investigator
Dr. Jiang He, professor of the Department of Epidemiology at Tulane University School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine
Call to Action: In many developed nations, obesity and other contributory elements endanger the lives of large numbers of the population. A health care movement must emerge that impacts this dangerous trend. Traditionally, in America, the African American church represents an important social hub and as TrialSite has identified in a survey of African Americans in southeast Texas potentially represents an important element in a multifaceted effort to engage and involve the Black community in a health movement that includes more study involvement.