Collaborating with spiritual organizations may help health professionals reach Black women who have heart disease and stroke risk factors and little health knowledge, according to research presented at the Nursing Symposium of the American Stroke Association's International Stroke Conference 2016.

Compared with other women, Black women have higher rates of illness or death related to stroke, heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, overweight and obesity. To assess factors related to the ability of women to reduce their risk factors and utilize healthcare effectively, a researcher surveyed 132 black women, average age 45, living in midtown Manhattan in New York City.

The researcher discovered that:

Black women were more likely to engage in healthy lifestyle behaviors (such as consuming a healthy diet, exercising regularly, controlling blood pressure and maintaining a healthy weight) if they scored higher on measures of health literacy (the ability to understand and apply health information), self-efficacy (a belief in the ability to meet goals), and readiness for change (the extent to which an individual is ready to change lifestyle behaviors to promote health).

Black women in the study that actively participated in spiritual organizations had higher rates of morbid obesity than other women in the study. These women were less ready to change their current lifestyle to promote their health and less likely to have adequate health literacy, but more likely to have a high degree of self-efficacy.

All participants in the study who had low health literacy scores were more likely to have cardiovascular disease or risk factors and also less likely to seek medical care, take prescribed medication, or receive routine preventative healthcare.

Readiness to change one's behavior to a healthy lifestyle can be impacted by community and social norms, and spiritual organizations are well known to positively impact behavior.

Interventions geared towards reducing healthcare disparities and improving modifiable risk factors among urban Black women may be more effective if conducted in collaboration with leaders in community spiritual organizations, the researcher said.

Source: American Heart Association