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Yale New Haven Health participating in research study to advance diagnosis and treatment of hypertension

Wednesday, June 12, 2024

New Haven, CT (June 12, 2024) – Cardiology researchers at Yale New Haven Health (YNHHS) are leading a multisite research study called Pressure Check, designed to screen for hypertension in the community and connect people with uncontrolled blood pressure into new care delivery models.

Yale New Haven Health kicked off their Pressure Check program with a community celebration on Wednesday, June 12 at the Keefe Community Center in Hamden.

“High blood pressure, also known as hypertension, is the leading cause of heart disease and stroke,” said Erica Spatz, MD, Associate Professor of Cardiovascular Medicine and Epidemiology, Director of Preventive Cardiovascular Health, Yale New Haven Health, and a co-Principal Investigator of the Pressure Check study. “Lowering blood pressure is more challenging than one might expect. Often it takes several visits to bring the blood pressure under control, and even then millions of people receiving care have uncontrolled hypertension. We need new strategies to diagnose and treat hypertension so we can save lives and keep people healthy.” Accordingly, researchers are giving qualifying participants blood pressure cuffs and teaching them how to measure their blood pressure at home. They are comparing three models of hypertensive care management: referral back to their primary care provider; follow-up with a specialized blood pressure team; and follow-up with a specialized blood pressure team and a community health worker. The community health worker helps to support the care plan and addresses any social determinants of health.

Maria Cantito, BSN, RN, CV-BC and Nurse Coordinator CV Preventive and Sports Cardiology and Geneva Savage helped lay the groundwork for Pressure Check, regularly visiting barbershops and a pharmacy in the community to conduct blood pressure screenings. Their efforts established important relationships with the owners, staff and patrons that continues to this day, and serves as the model for other community-based organization partnerships in this study. High blood pressure (hypertension) is extremely common. Uncontrolled blood pressure puts people at increased risk of developing heart disease, brain disease, and kidney disease. Yet only 1 in 4 people have their blood pressure under good control (blood pressure under 130/80 mmHg). Blood pressure control is worse in populations who traditionally face inequities, including the African American and Latinx communities. The CDC said hypertension or high blood pressure impacts 47% of American adults.

“The Pressure Check study is designed to address health inequities in high blood pressure and provide impactful evidence about how best to deliver care for high blood pressure in our communities,” continued Dr. Spatz. “This study will support policies and infrastructure for how we deliver care.”

The study is taking place in 4 cities, where a partnered health system in each city is collaborating with 10 community partners to screen for high blood pressure. Community partners YNHHS is partnering with will include churches, barbershops, community centers, and other businesses and organizations that have been historically minded around health and wellbeing.

“We are partnering with community organizations and businesses, including churches, barbershops, beauty salons, and more,” noted Spatz. The leaders in these organizations and businesses are trusted and their voices matter. They play an important role in the health and wellbeing of their community.”

The other centers across the U.S. are at Massachusetts General/Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, MA, Sentara Health in Norfolk, VA and Houston Methodist in Houston, TX.

The research study is funded by the Patient Centered Outcomes Research Institute.

“We believe our dedicated blood pressure teams and community health workers can help engage patients, talk to patients a little bit more frequently,’ said Tucker, Clinical Program Director, Outpatient Services, Heart and Vascular Center, Yale New Haven Hospital.

“There’s no research proving hypertension is genetic, but social determinants of health run in families, including education level, physical environment, access to healthcare, stress and nutrition. In addition, patients with high blood pressure are more susceptible to complex medical issues like kidney failure, heart failure, heart attacks, and strokes.

“By reaching out through community-based organizations, we are going to be reaching people that we would otherwise not reach,” added Tucker. “If we were to wait for people to come to our office or recruit people through standard medical care, we would be missing out on a segment of the population who particularly need our help and our engagement.”

Participants in the program use remote blood pressure monitoring systems and transmit results back to the Pressure Check team, and community health workers check in on them often.

Yale New Haven Health (YNHHS), the largest and most comprehensive healthcare system in Connecticut, is recognized for advanced clinical care, quality, service, cost effectiveness and commitment to improving the health status of the communities it serves. YNHHS includes five hospitals – Bridgeport, Greenwich, Lawrence + Memorial, Westerly and Yale New Haven hospitals, several specialty networks and Northeast Medical Group, a non-profit medical foundation with several hundred community-based and hospital-employed physicians. YNHHS is affiliated with Yale University and Yale Medicine, the clinical practice of the Yale School of Medicine and the largest academic multi-specialty practice in New England. Yale New Haven Hospital is the primary teaching hospital of Yale School of Medicine.