High blood pressure is a significant public health problem in the African-American community, particularly among men. With funding from the Baltimore City Health Department, UMMC has launched a citywide initiative to help African-American men with undiagnosed hypertension get their blood pressure under control and learn how to maintain a healthier lifestyle.

“Our goal is not only to help the men who participate in our program, but also to educate family members and others in the community about the risks of high blood pressure,” said Anne Williams, DNP, RN, director of community health improvement at UMMC and UMMC Midtown Campus. UMMC will receive a total of $212,500 from the Baltimore City Health Department, and the grant recently was extended through the end of June 2016.

More than 40 percent of African-American adults have high blood pressure, which is defined as a reading of 140/90 or higher. Ideally, blood pressure should be 120/80 or lower. Dubbed the “silent killer” because it often has no symptoms, hypertension can increase the risk of stroke, kidney disease, heart attack or other cardiovascular complications.

The citywide program is part of UMMC’s ongoing efforts to improve community health and offer preventive health care that will not only help to keep people out of the hospital, but also reduce health care costs. The Medical Center and UMMC Midtown Campus participate in more than 65 health fairs each year, providing free screening and health education to underserved populations. In addition, UMMC also offers classes to the public on diabetes prevention and living with chronic diseases. Preventing chronic diseases, such as obesity, diabetes and cardiovascular disease, is a top priority.

The program has already identified more than 840 men as having high blood pressure. Nearly 600 of those men are taking part in at least one element of the program, which began in March and has one full-time employee, community health advocate Asunta Henry, BS, EMT-B.

UMMC is partnering with Union Baptist Church, the American Heart Association, the Center for Urban Families, Shoppers Food Warehouse, Chase Brexton Health Care and other nonprofit organizations to offer free blood-pressure screenings at churches, grocery stores, senior centers and other locations throughout the city.

Those who are diagnosed with hypertension are referred to an affordable health care provider, who will determine whether they need medicine or other treatments to lower their blood pressure.

As part of the program, the men can take cooking classes offered by the American Heart Association and educational grocery store tours to help them make better food choices and eat healthier meals. They also receive one-on-one counseling and a free home blood pressure monitoring device and are eligible for a free one-year membership to the Druid Hill YMCA.

“We want to educate the men who participate in this program, as well as motivate them and give them the tools they need to succeed,” Williams said. “So far, we’re very encouraged by the progress they have made and how the community has responded to this program.” The program is open to African-American men who live in Baltimore City and have high blood pressure. Employees of both UMMC campuses are welcome to participate.

For more information, call 1-800-492-5538 or e-mail healthypressure@umm.edu.