Like many nurses, Kristie Allen thinks a lot about how she can improve the way patients get their blood pressure under control. But in rural Middle Tennessee, her health center’s community faces odds that make it even more challenging to provide resources and easy access to care for her patients.
“We’re a small, poor community where there are really no jobs, no hospitals, and no internet or cell phone reception in most areas,” she said. “It’s a real struggle to find resources for our patient population.”
So, Allen was thrilled when she heard about the National Hypertension Control Initiative, a collaboration between the American Heart Association and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to address hypertension in racial and ethnic minority populations in historically under-resourced communities.
“It’s a great initiative. With our limited resources, this is really helping us to keep our patients healthy,” said Allen, a nurse who serves as a quality improvement coordinator at Perry County Medical Center in Linden, Tennessee and Three Rivers Community Health Group in Lyles, Tennessee.
Nearly half of American adults have high blood pressure and those rates are often higher among racial and ethnic populations. Black and LatinX people are also being affected at disproportionate rates. This disparity can be related to social determinants of health, as well as genetics and other health and environmental issues. The National Hypertension Control Initiative aims to reduce these health disparities and improve health outcomes in communities through blood pressure measurement and management education.
Along with providing direct patient education resources, the initiative will work with community-based organizations and businesses to create blood pressure monitoring and education touchpoints in neighborhoods across the country. These organizations will provide free information and resources about risks, self-monitoring techniques and the importance of connecting with a health care professional to manage blood pressure.
But the key points of entry for the initiative are the health centers that serve communities. Along with other health centers around the country, Allen joins a monthly webinar series that provides proper blood pressure measurement techniques for her health care professionals and key blood pressure control information for patients.
Some of those methods shown during the webinars are simple, like having patients sit in a chair with their feet on the floor and elbows at heart level to ensure a correct reading. Allen also has staff make sure that patients sit for a few minutes before taking a test. This step assists with ensuring their blood pressure isn’t abnormally high.
“It gives them time to calm down so, they don’t have ‘White Coat Syndrome,’ which happens sometimes when people are nervous about seeing a doctor,” Allen explained.
“Getting them to check their own blood pressure every day and report back to us really helps them manage their blood pressure and stay healthy,” she said.
“High blood pressure is a silent killer because people may not even know they have it. It’s important that people take it seriously, and this initiative helps us educate our patients and give them resources to take care of their hearts and their bodies.”
Patients aren’t the only ones benefiting from the National Hypertension Control Initiative. Allen shared after a brief period of adjustment, the staff was invigorated by the new methods, techniques and equipment.
“Everything fell into place, and it’s made things easier for everyone,” she said. “The initiative has benefited the patients; the staff is excited by it … the change has definitely been worth it.”
If you’re looking for resources on how to improve blood pressure measurement techniques in your health center, please head over to heart.org/hbpcontrol.