Atlanta Heart Health Fair Equips Black Residents With Resources, Tools For Preventing Heart Disease

In an effort to combat preventable heart disease and promote heart health awareness, the American College of Cardiology (ACC) joined forces with Morehouse College to host this year’s Atlanta Heart Health Fair. This transformative event aimed to reach the Black community in Atlanta, where heart disease disproportionately impacts many of its residents.

Heart disease remains the leading cause of death on a national, state and county level. In Georgia, it claims the lives of approximately one in three individuals. To address this pressing issue, the Atlanta Heart Health Fair provided vital information, resources, and workshops to empower residents with the tools they need to combat preventable heart disease. Johnson & Johnson sponsored the event, providing a screening truck where fair attendees could instantly jumpstart their heart health journeys. 

Dr. Melvin Echols, Chief Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Officer of ACC, underscores the importance of community engagement and resources in promoting health equity. He emphasized how the fair aims to provide attendees with non-medical strategies to manage stress and blood pressure, offering activities such as Tai Chi, massages, and chiropractic services. By making these resources accessible, the fair aims to motivate minority residents to take proactive steps towards better heart health. 

“When we talk about health equity and promoting fairness and better care for everyone, we want to make sure the community knows there are resources here that they can take part in,” said Dr. Echols. “The bottom line is we do this for the community.” 

One of the key strategies highlighted by Dr. Echols is the importance of knowing one’s numbers. Understanding blood pressure, blood sugar levels, and cholesterol levels can empower individuals to take control of their heart health and make informed decisions about their well-being.

“I think it’s so important that a patient feels comfortable enough with their provider to ask them anything they want to. That’s the provider’s job, to make sure that you get it so that when you go home you can do what you need to do. I think at the end of the day no question is too simple and no question should be withheld because of feeling embarrassed,” Dr. Echols said. 

Dr. Richard Browne, Senior Medical Executive at Johnson & Johnson states, “In the Black community, we have focused on a cardiovascular condition called peripheral artery disease or PAD. It is caused by a buildup of plaque in the blood vessels to the legs. We know that people who have PAD have an increased risk of having a stroke, heart attack and a leg amputation.” He continues, “In the Black community your chances of having a leg amputation is up to 4 times higher than other races. And the problem with PAD is that many people don’t know about it, and it is often undiagnosed and untreated. If you have PAD that is undiagnosed and untreated you’re very likely to end up with a bad cardiovascular outcome, which is most prevalent in the Black community.” 

Dr. Browne also spoke about the significance of early detection and prevention.

“The biggest preventative measure you can take to prevent PAD or prevent its progression if you already have it is by controlling your blood pressure. If you have diabetes, make sure to keep your blood sugar under control. There’s also a blood test that tells you how well your diabetes is under control called a hemoglobin A1C. You should know what that number is just like you should know what your blood pressure number is,” Dr. Browne said. 

The community response to the Atlanta Heart Health Fair was overwhelmingly positive. “The turnout has been great,” Browne said. “I talked about PAD, which is a focus of Johnson & Johnson but folks were here learning about other things and how to improve their overall health.” 

As the Atlanta Heart Health Fair continues to raise awareness and provide this life-saving information, it represents a crucial step towards achieving health equity and reducing disparities in heart disease outcomes. 

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