(These remarks were delivered during the Juneteenth celebration at the George Stevens Senior Resource Center.)
I have been serving patients in Southeastern San Diego for 40 years. Health data 40 years ago showed African Americans in Southeastern San Diego suffered the highest rates of cardiovascular disease, including heart attacks and strokes, when compared to other parts of the county.
Sadly, today, not much has changed with this persistent disparity in cardiovascular disease.
However, there's GOOD news!
Today, we are here to announce the start of a journey in Southeastern San Diego to bring awareness and strategies toward eliminating heart attacks and strokes, with a focus on African Americans.
Why African Americans?
A 50-year-old African American man or woman living in Southeastern San Diego with the same cardiovascular risk factors as his or her white or Latino counterpart (blood pressure, cholesterol, cigarettes, etc.) has a risk 50 to 100 percent higher than whites or Latinos.
Evidence suggests many complex reasons, such as health system inequities and stressful lifestyles as major contributors.
All of us have been saddened by recent macro events that have taken place in our country, such as the horrific hateful event causing the nine deaths of our brothers and sisters in Emanuel AME Church in South Carolina, or Tamir Rice in Ohio, Eric Garner in New York City, Ferguson in Missouri. Although I did not personally know any of these souls that were killed, as an African American, I especially feel stressed as though they were my own flesh and blood.
Some cursory research suggests this racialized stress may be linked to higher disease risks in the targeted population.
However, today, I am here with Faith leaders and other community stakeholders to begin a healing process with the announcement of a "movement for life" in our community - the Southeastern San Diego Cardiac Disparities Project.
The Faith community will lead their congregations to adopt better lifestyle choices and I will lead a group of physicians and other providers who will begin to meet and develop best practices to better treat cardiovascular risk factors to prevent strokes and heart attacks.
This combined clinical and community-based participatory approach has been shown to achieve better outcomes, especially with the participation of the Faith community.
I represent a newly formed entity, the Multicultural Health Foundation, whose vision and mission is dedicated to achieving health equity with the elimination of health disparities in San Diego County.
We, at the foundation, are extending our successful efforts of a three-year federal grant, the Patient Health Improvement Initiative. This allowed us to improve health services for more than 160 patients with complex medical conditions, many of whom live in this community. We are committed to expanding this very successful program and to joining forces with Be There San Diego, with its focus on Southeastern San Diego, to eliminate heart attacks and strokes.
We will leverage the resources of the foundation to support the efforts of Be There San Diego and REACH by collaborating with the Southeastern San Diego Community Advisory Committee, the Faith community and "Heart Health Champions," fellow physicians and providers who I now ask to join me to create better ways to treat cardiovascular risk factors that will lead to a healthier community, with residents experiencing improved longevity and a better quality of life.