by Dr. Keith Ferdinand

Good health is the cornerstone of progress, and since 1974, the Association of Black Cardiologists (ABC) has been dedicated to lowering the high rate of cardiovascular disease, including stroke, especially in minority populations. As an ABC member and Chairman of the ABC Access to Healthcare Working Group, I have spent my career pursuing a central goal of ABC: to eliminate the disparities related to cardiovascular disease in all people regardless of race, ethnicity, gender, geography, or socioeconomic status.

It was altogether fitting that in February we celebrated both Heart Month and Black History Month, because their intersection reminds us that our society will never be truly healthy until all people regardless of race, ethnicity or gender benefit equally from reduction in the frequency, duration and impact of diseases of the heart and blood vessels.

Right now, it is clear that major disparities exist in the United States. If we were to score a Heart Health Report Card, we would see that heart health disparities without question lead to a shortened life expectancy for African Americans.

For instance, it is an unfortunate fact that, according to the American Heart Association, the prevalence of hypertension, or high blood pressure, in African Americans is among the highest in the world. African Americans are also more likely to have diabetes than non-Hispanic whites, and African Americans suffer one of the highest rates of heart disease and stroke in the United States.

ABC believes that until all populations are healthy, our society is not healthy. That belief, coupled with our conviction that evidence-based medicines and newer developing therapies should be available for all persons regardless of race, ethnicity, social economic status, geography or gender, led a group of 15 experts to convene this past November in New Orleans to discuss the importance of all persons having access to appropriate care, preventive medicines and newer developed modalities including medications and devices.

Next month the findings from the first large trial to assess cardiovascular outcomes with a PCSK9 inhibitor, a new class of cholesterol-lowering drugs, will be exhibited during the American College of Cardiology scientific sessions in Washington, DC. We are excited to hear final details but this new therapy appears to have an even more powerful LDL cholesterol-lowering effect on cardiovascular disease than statins – an important finding for our community. Unfortunately, adoption of this promising new therapy has been greatly limited with significant obstacles to reimbursement from insurance companies.

As chairman of the Access to Care Working Group, I hope that our continuing discussion will lead to further action to ensure that barriers to access healthcare in the United States are overcome, and that inequities in our healthcare system are eliminated.

Together, we can save the hearts and minds of a diverse America.

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