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Outcomes of National Community Organization Cardiovascular Prevention Programs for High-Risk Women


The purpose of this study was to reduce cardiovascular disease (CVD) risk in women by implementing a cardiovascular prevention health promotion program in faith- and community-based sites. The primary outcomes were reducing obesity and increasing physical activity. A longitudinal cohort of high-risk (age > 40, ethnic minority) women (n = 1,052) was enrolled at 32 sites across the USA. The pre- or post-educational intervention consisted of eight biweekly counseling sessions conducted over 4 months each addressing one of six of the major CVD risk factors (smoking, diabetes, hypertension, cholesterol, obesity, and physical inactivity) as well as signs and symptoms of a heart attack and stroke; plus 4–6 maintenance sessions over three additional months. A multifaceted approach delivered by lay and medically trained personnel involving medical screenings, health behavior counseling, risk behavior modification, and stage of change were determined at baseline and end of counseling or maintenance. Following list-wise deletion, data were analyzed on 423 women who completed all follow-up time-points. Overall, significant improvement was attained in most of 28 secondary outcomes but not in the primary outcomes. Knowledge and awareness of heart disease as the leading killer or women, all of the signs and symptoms of a heart attack, calling 911, and CVD risk factors increased significantly (p < 0.05) by 8.8%, 13.6%, 5.8%, and 10%, respectively. There was a 10% (p < 0.05) increase in participants attaining control for hypertension (blood pressure < 140/90) coupled with a significant reduction in mean blood pressure in the entire cohort. Knowledge of effective CVD risk modification strategies for all CVD risk factors increased significantly (p < 0.05), except for obesity. In addition, there were significant (p < 0.05) increases in forward movement in stage of change for each CVD risk factor (range +10% to +39%). Thus, a heart disease prevention intervention built around a model of community engagement, advocacy, self-efficacy, resource knowledge, and health promotion in faith- and community-based organizations is successful at improving cardiovascular knowledge and awareness outcomes in high-risk women. Limitations of our study include the high dropout rate, significant time demands on site coordinators, limited resources for program implementation, lack of morbidity and mortality endpoints, and failure to attain the primary outcomes of weight loss and physical activity. Future studies should not only assess the effect of community education interventions on lifestyle change and knowledge and awareness of participants but should also address program duration, cost, and resources required to attain improved outcomes.

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