Forging Pathways for Blood Pressure Management in Petersburg, VA

As champions for health equity, the American Heart Association is committed to advancing cardiovascular health for all, including identifying and removing barriers to health care access and quality. This is especially important for those who are uninsured or underinsured. The City of Petersburg is a resilient community, but one with significant barriers to living a full, healthy life. Petersburg has a population of 32,420 of which 77% identify as Black or African American. The national County Health Ranking has consistently ranked Petersburg 133 out of 133 counties in Virginia, determined by health factors like tobacco use, diet and exercise, access to care, and social and economic factors like income.

Nearly 40% of residents have high blood pressure – the highest percentage in the Greater Richmond region. High blood pressure (hypertension) is a major risk factor for heart disease and stroke. One of the ways the Association is helping the Petersburg community to improve rates of hypertension is by working directly with healthcare providers to increase accurate blood pressure measurement, treatment, and to partner with their patients in managing their blood pressure. Pathways, Inc. lives their mission, to be “a neighborhood partner building pathways to education, employment, good health and a revitalized community.”

Pathway’s clinic is the only free clinic in Southside Virginia that provides general health and blood pressure screenings as well as specialized services including cardiology, rheumatology, and women’s health care. The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on communities of color has further underscored the need to provide accessible, quality healthcare to area residents. Pathways’ patient population is between approximately 500 to 1,000 people, the majority of which are Black and/or Hispanic, and 100% low income. In January 2022, Pathways launched a self-monitoring blood pressure (BP) program to empower patients to partner in their care through self-monitoring at home. Patients appropriate for SMBP include those whose blood pressure measurements appear elevated in the clinic, known as “white coat hypertension,”; when new anti-hypertensive medication is introduced or when undergoing adjustments to their current treatment regimen. Research has shown that self-monitoring, coupled with clinical support, enhances the accessibility of care and improves blood pressure control.

As a result of a generous corporate donor, Phlow Corporation, the American Heart Association provided Pathways with 20 validated blood pressure monitors/cuffs, patient education resources including handouts and posters for exam rooms on the consequences of hypertension. the Association also conducted training for Pathways staff and volunteers to implement the SMBP program, which will include regular training for both patients and clinical staff using materials provided by the Association. Through the SMBP initiative, access to blood pressure monitors will allow for accurate readings and documentation in the patient’s medical chart to support hypertension control regardless of who engages with the patient at Pathways. The SMBP program includes teaching patients how to measure accurately at home, to record their measurements, and to share their numbers with their healthcare team. After the first year of the program, Pathways hopes to embed blood pressure measurement and education throughout their programing including the on-site food pantry, daily food distribution, and youth education and employment programs.