UA Reaching Rural Areas to Improve Cardiovascular Health

UA Reaching Rural Areas to Improve Cardiovascular Health

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. – The University of Alabama is spearheading an effort to reduce the risk for cardiovascular disease in West Alabama.

With $6 million from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention spread out over the next five years, UA faculty, staff and students will work with local health care providers to implement programs and resources designed to reduce risk factors for heart attacks, strokes and other issues stemming from poor cardiovascular health. The work will focus on nine counties around the University that include rural and underserved areas of the state.

“UA has strong community-based researchers and strong relationships with communities in West Alabama,” said Dr. Sharlene Newman, executive director of the Alabama Life Research Institute. “We will tackle this problem from multiple directions with hope that the planned programming will result in fewer residents with uncontrolled high blood pressure and high cholesterol as well as fewer smokers.”

The Alabama Life Research Institute at UA is leading the coalition of researchers and practitioners from the Capstone College of Nursing and the Institute of Data Analytics in the Culverhouse College of Business.

“The West Alabama Cardiovascular Health Program will allow us to partner with each community to increase access to care and improve health literacy with a community-specific focus on hypertension prevention and treatment,” said Dr. Paige Turner Johnson, associate professor and the Saxon Chair for Rural Nursing. “Together we can empower them to write their own story of well-being to create a healthier tomorrow.”

Alabama has some of the highest rates of hypertension in the country, ranked at 47 with 42.7% of the population having a diagnosis, and with Alabamians having a 10-percentage point higher hypertension rate than the national average, according to America’s Health Ranking.

The West Alabama Cardiovascular Health Program will offer services that assist communities with controlling blood pressure and cholesterol by helping people take medication regularly and guiding their diet and exercise. UA will also provide smoking cessation programming.

The program will also bring together local health care workers and community leaders to identify issues affecting health and provide a list of resources to address those barriers.

Through a collaboration with One Alabama Health Record, the team will also increase the use of health information systems to monitor and address the cardiovascular health of the targeted counties.

The program will allow for research on local community needs, how to best use health information data to improve community health and what interventions work best for each community.

“All of this is necessary to develop effective change,” Newman said. “Serving our state and conducting research are necessarily intimately intertwined.”

Along with Newman and Johnson, the West Alabama Cardiovascular Heath Program includes Dr. Christina Ezemenaka, assistant professor of nursing; Dr. Wanda Martin Burton, assistant professor of nursing; Dr. Letisha Scott, clinical assistant professor of nursing; and Dr. Matthew Hudnall, associate professor of management information systems and associate director of the Institute of Data and Analytics.

The University of Alabama, part of The University of Alabama System, is the state’s flagship university. UA shapes a better world through its teaching, research and service. With a global reputation for excellence, UA provides an inclusive, forward-thinking environment and nearly 200 degree programs on a beautiful, student-centered campus. A leader in cutting-edge research, UA advances discovery, creative inquiry and knowledge through more than 30 research centers. As the state’s largest higher education institution, UA drives economic growth in Alabama and beyond.


Adam Jones, UA Strategic Communications, 205-348-4328,