Excellus BlueCross Blue Shield recently awarded the American Heart Association in the Mohawk Valley a Health Equity Award of $30,000 to support Improving Hypertension Rates in Herkimer County with Self-Measured Blood Pressure.  This program addresses the significant health risks facing residents in Herkimer County due to the prevalence of high blood pressure rates in this community.


“High blood pressure, also known as hypertension, is one of the American Heart Association’s priority issues to drive equitable health impact,” explains Christine Kisiel, executive director of the American Heart Association in the Mohawk Valley. “As champions for health equity, by 2024, the American Heart Association aims to advance cardiovascular health for all, including identifying and removing barriers to health care access and quality.”


According to the association, across New York state, the prevalence rate of high blood

pressure is 27%. However, higher rates are seen within Herkimer County, including Little Falls where rates are as high as 41%.  Rates for residents in Town of Webb are at 40% and Town of Herkimer at 38%. “These residents face a significant increase in their risk of heart disease, stroke, kidney disease, and other chronic health problems,” says Kisiel.


Through the implementation of a self-measured blood pressure (SMBP) monitoring program and hypertension summit, the association plans to address this health disparity.  Patients will use SMBP to monitor their blood pressure at home helping them to take an active role in managing their hypertension. “Those who are recently diagnosed, and those who are otherwise high risk are the priority population for the program,” explains Kisiel. “Patients will receive training in proper measurement and tracking of blood pressures and ways to reduce blood pressure through lifestyle changes such as diet and physical activity.”


An important component to the program is the involvement of community partners who will help reach people who aren’t receiving regular care from a medical provider.  They will assist with SMBP monitoring, education, and referral to local providers.  The program has the potential to impact over 450 community members in one year.


Additionally, funding from the Excellus BCBS Health Equity Award will support a Hypertension Summit, bringing together key healthcare leaders to create a coordinated effort to address hypertension prevention, treatment, and diagnosis in the Mohawk Valley.


Excellus BCBS Health Equity Award funding supports underserved populations with health disadvantages due to race, ethnicity, disability, sex, gender and/or rural disparities. Award categories include, but are not limited to, improving the community’s physical health and mental health, reducing social disparities in health care, and ensuring access to health care services. Grant recipients were selected based on clear, defined goals and measurable results for reducing health disparities and improving health equity.


“We are proud to further our commitment to health equity by supporting the American Heart Association of the Mohawk Valley’s program to address hypertension in Herkimer County,” said Eve Van de Wal, Excellus BlueCross BlueShield Utica regional president. “Their work helps reduce a significant health disparity in our rural communities. Partnering with community-based organizations and funding local initiatives like this one supports our mission of helping our members live healthier more secure lives by improving access to care, advancing specific health outcomes and improving health equity.”


For the latest information on the health plan’s community investments and partnerships, members, providers and employers are encouraged to visit https://news.excellusbcbs.com/news-room/community-investments-partnerships.

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