Heartfelt Help: Reducing Cardiac Disparities in American Heart Month

Learn how to implement strategies to reduce cardiac disparities

February 14, 2024
cardiac medications

February's American Heart Month comes with a stark reminder: cardiovascular disease remains the world’s leading killer, but not all are affected equally. Black adults, people in rural areas and those facing adverse social determinants of health (SDOH) bear a disproportionate burden. Addressing these disparities is not just a matter of equity; it's a matter of urgency as we continue to see the numbers rise.

The disparities in cardiovascular health are deeply intertwined with SDOH. Access to healthcare, nutritious food and safe environments for physical activity are just the tip of the iceberg. Structural racism and socioeconomic factors play significant roles in exacerbating these health disparities, creating an uneven playing field that demands attention and action.  

Another factor is that certain cardiovascular medications (those for treatment as well as prevention) can be expensive, adding another barrier to reducing disparities.  

Providers can address these disparities through various strategies:

1. Implementing Social Determinants of Health (SDOH) Screening and Referrals: By identifying and addressing individual SDOH needs, providers can refer patients to local resources for food, housing and other resources to offset the disparities these patients face.  

2. Partnering with Community Organizations: Collaboration with local organizations who provide assistance reduces access barriers and improves awareness.    

3. Offering Patient Education and Support: Offering education on heart health, managing risk factors and understanding medication adherence are important. Additionally, implementing processes to improve health literacy allows patients to better understand their care plan.

4. Automating the Financial Assistance Process: Automating the process of connecting patients with patient assistance programs through technology offers a beacon of hope. Technology can screen patients and identify the assistance programs they meet eligibility criteria for. Accessing assistance programs ensures patients have access to essential medical care and medications.  

The time is now for health systems to embrace technology and automate patient assistance. By doing so, they can impact access and affordability to healthcare. Communities must also rally to support efforts addressing the root causes of health disparities, from healthy food and physical activity, to health literacy and medical education.