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For Immediate Release
Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute

WASHINGTON, D.C. (Sept. 28, 2015) – Efforts to reduce health disparities related to uncontrolled high blood pressure among African Americans, Hispanic/Latino Americans, and low-income and rural individuals got a boost today with the announcement of $23.5 million for two new studies.

Research teams led by Monika Safford, MD, of the University of Alabama at Birmingham and Lisa Cooper, MD, MPH, of Johns Hopkins University were selected by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) for the research awards, which are funded by the Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute (PCORI) through a partnership with NIH. Cooper and Safford are nationally recognized leaders in research to eliminate health disparities.

The two studies will compare ways to both improve blood pressure control in specific populations at risk for health disparities related to the condition and to close the persistent gaps in health outcomes experienced by these groups.

“Even as health outcomes associated with blood pressure control have improved nationwide, striking disparities remain among racial and ethnic minorities, low-income individuals, and rural residents,” said Romana Hasnain-Wynia, PhD, Director of PCORI’s Addressing Disparities Program. “This suggests serious problems that remain to be solved. The two studies we’re funding through our partnership with NIH will directly tackle these disparities.”

Approximately 80 million U.S. adults have high blood pressure, which is a leading cause of heart disease and stroke. More than 75 percent of people who have suffered a stroke have hypertension, as do nearly 70 percent of those who have had a heart attack.

Minorities, low-income individuals, and those living in rural areas suffer more than others from health problems associated with uncontrolled hypertension. For example, African Americans’ are nearly twice as likely to die from preventable heart disease and stroke as Caucasians. Rural residents are more likely to be diagnosed with heart disease than urban dwellers.

Previous research has rarely targeted these high-risk populations exclusively and have not fully engaged patients and clinicians in the design and conduct of studies designed to address this problem, steps that may be crucial to achieving real gains in outcomes.

The study led by Safford will focus on rural and low-income African Americans in Alabama and North Carolina. It will compare telephone-based peer coaching of individuals with hypertension to clinic-based primary care using techniques such as support for patients’ self-management of their condition. It aims to recruit around 2,000 patient participants. PCORI is providing nearly $9.5 million for the trial.

The study led by Cooper will focus on racial/ethnic minorities, low-income individuals, and rural and urban residents across Maryland. It will compare clinic-based primary care to a collaborative, stepped approach to care. In the stepped approach, patients first interact with a community health worker and then, if their blood pressure control does not improve, with a subspecialist, such as a cardiologist or behavioral health specialist. The trial aims to recruit around 1,890 patient participants. PCORI is providing nearly $12.2 million for the study.

Each study will take a highly patient-centered approach. In both trials, for example, individuals from the target populations will provide input as part of the research teams. Each trial also features a Community Advisory Board made up of individuals such as community leaders, patients, family caregivers, clinicians, and representatives of local and national stakeholder organizations.

The awards were made through the Hypertension Disparities Reduction Program Partnership, a research partnership between NIH’s National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute and National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke and PCORI. NIH and PCORI also awarded a $1.75 million contract to Westat, a consulting services firm, to serve as the research coordinating unit providing logistical and technical support for the two studies through the partnership. 


The National Institutes of Health (NIH) awards for “Testing of Multi-Level Interventions to Improve Blood Pressure Control in Racial/Ethnic Minority, Low Socioeconomic Status, and/or Rural Populations” were supported by the Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute (PCORI) through a research partnership with NIH. PCORI is an independent, non-profit research funder authorized by Congress to help people make informed healthcare decisions, and improve healthcare delivery and outcomes. It does this by producing high-quality, useful information that comes from clinical effectiveness research guided by patients, caregivers, and the broader healthcare community. For more information about PCORI, visit www.pcori.org. NIH, the nation's medical research agency, includes 27 Institutes and Centers and is a component of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. NIH is the primary federal agency conducting and supporting basic, clinical, and translational medical research, and is investigating the causes, treatments, and cures for both common and rare diseases. For more information about NIH and its programs, visit www.nih.gov.



The Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute (PCORI) is an independent, non-profit organization authorized by Congress in 2010. Its mission is to fund research that will provide patients, their caregivers and clinicians with the evidence-based information needed to make better-informed healthcare decisions. PCORI is committed to continuously seeking input from a broad range of stakeholders to guide its work.

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