Addressing Barriers to Health Equity in the Metro Atlanta Community
By Erin Thomas, Communications and Marketing Director of the American Heart Association
About 50 million people in the United States are at higher risk for cardiovascular disease because they lack the most basic needs — healthy food, clean air and drinking water, quality education, employment and housing. These basic needs are identified as social determinants of health and are influenced by how money, power and resources are distributed at the local, national, and global levels. In the metro Atlanta area, the zip code 30309 has a life expectancy of 82 years while zip code 30314, which is 12 miles south of the city has a life expectancy of 71 years. There is an urgent need for health equity in order to create a healthier, safer and more prosperous community and here’s what we are doing to make this dream a reality.
The 2024 Impact Goal
Every person deserves the opportunity for a full, healthy life. As champions for health equity, by 2024, the American Heart Association (AHA) will advance cardiovascular health for all, including identifying and removing barriers to health care access and quality.
The primary focus areas that are being addressed by the AHA Metro Atlanta affiliate include nutrition security, blood pressure management, and tobacco and vaping cessation.
According to data from Feeding America, 11.3% of Fulton County and 10.5% of DeKalb County residents – two of Georgia’s most populous counties – are food insecure. Through initiatives such as Grow the Good ATL, a collaborative effort with Wholesome Wave Georgia, we are advocating for funding to increase the amount of fresh fruit and vegetables that Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) recipients receive when they shop at local farmers markets and food stands. Some of the local farms and food stands that were recipients of The Bernard J. Tyson Impact Fund, which invests in evidence-based, locally led solutions to tackle nutrition security, are currently participants in the Grow the Good ATL initiative.
Blood Pressure Management
Roughly 46% of the metro Atlanta area has been told that they high blood pressure. Through community partners, there’s been an effort to provide evidence-based high blood pressure resources to Federally Qualified Health Centers (FQHCs) that serve under-resourced communities to include those most severely impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. We’re also partnering with local barbershops and hair salons to educate stylists and barbers on how to become blood pressure champions which empowers them to have conversations with their clients about self-management of their blood pressure.
Tobacco & Vaping Cessation
According to the CDC, people who do not smoke but are exposed to secondhand smoke at home or at work, experience a 25-30% increase in their risk of developing heart disease. Several smoke-free ordinances have been passed in the City of Atlanta, South Fulton and Doraville over the past two years. Smoke-free ordinances prohibit smoking in public places such as restaurants to ensure that everyone in the local community has a fair opportunity to a healthy life outside of their homes.
The mission of the American Heart Association is to be a relentless force for longer, healthier lives. Across Atlanta, we are fighting for longer lives by making the places where we live, learn, work, play, pray, and heal as healthy as they can be. We look forward to sharing our work and hope you will join us on this journey.
To learn more about the American Heart Association, visit www.heart.org/atlanta.