Volunteers Sought in Desha County for Research on Controlling High Blood Pressure

By Yavonda Chase

Researchers from the Arkansas Prevention Research Center at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences (UAMS) are looking for people in Desha County with high blood pressure to volunteer for a study.

It costs nothing to participate in the study, and the time commitment is minimal.

The purpose of the study is to test a way to help people better control their high blood pressure. If the method works and is affordable, it could be used elsewhere in Arkansas, and even nationally.

To participate in the study, a person must be between the ages of 18 and 59 and have high blood pressure, as determined by a required screening.

For more information about the project or how to participate, call 870-273-8937.

High blood pressure is a common problem. Because there may not be any symptoms, a person can have the condition and not know it. With the right care, high blood pressure is easily controlled at a safe and healthy level.

However, uncontrolled high blood pressure puts a person at increased risk for stroke and heart attack, which together cause more deaths in Arkansas and the United States than any other single cause.

It is estimated that more than a third of people ages 18-59 living in Desha County have uncontrolled high blood pressure. Desha County was selected for the project because of the high rate of uncontrolled blood pressure in residents.

The Arkansas Prevention Research Center is partnering with organizations, community leaders, residents and health care providers on the study. Representatives from these groups will serve on an advising committee for the project.

Partnering organizations include Phoenix Youth and Family Services, Tri-County Rural Health Network, Greater Delta Alliance for Health, Mid-Delta Community Consortium, the Arkansas Department of Health, the Desha Hometown Health Improvement Project, Delta Memorial Hospital, McGehee Hospital, Daughters of Charity, the McGehee and Dumas chambers of commerce and both towns’ mayors.

Linda Austin, a Desha County resident and community health worker with the Arkansas Department of Health, said she has witnessed the devastating effects of uncontrolled high blood pressure and encourages participation in the study.

“Uncontrolled high blood pressure has resulted in a high incidence of heart disease, strokes and death in our communities,” Austin said. “I totally support this health research project by UAMS, the goal of which is to raise awareness about high blood pressure and reduce its risks and treatment costs. It is a wonderful study for Desha County residents to be part of. I encourage those who suspect their blood pressure is elevated and uncontrolled to be screened to see if they qualify to take part in the study.”

The Arkansas Prevention Research Center was established at the UAMS Fay W. Boozman College of Public Health in 2009 with a $1.7 million five-year grant from the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). In 2014, the CDC awarded the college an additional $3.75 million grant to continue the center’s work for another five-year period.

“The continued funding for the Arkansas Prevention Research Center furthers the college’s mission of improving the health of all Arkansans by helping us provide model programs in collaboration with our partners at the Arkansas Department of Health and in Arkansas communities,” said Jim Raczynski, Ph.D., dean of the College of Public Health and center director.

When the Arkansas Prevention Research Center was founded, researchers and communities in 19 counties in the Delta region came together to lay the groundwork for programs to improve public health practice and reduce risk for chronic disease, particularly in minority populations. In its first five years, the center worked with its community partners to study food access, to build a track and playground in Hamburg and to establish a program in Dumas to encourage parents and preschool children to be more active.

UAMS is the state's only health sciences university, with colleges of Medicine, Nursing, Pharmacy, Health Professions and Public Health; a graduate school; hospital; a main campus in Little Rock; a Northwest Arkansas regional campus in Fayetteville; a statewide network of regional campuses; and seven institutes: the Winthrop P. Rockefeller Cancer Institute, Jackson T. Stephens Spine & Neurosciences Institute, Harvey & Bernice Jones Eye Institute, Psychiatric Research Institute, Donald W. Reynolds Institute on Aging, Translational Research Institute and Institute for Digital Health & Innovation. UAMS includes UAMS Health, a statewide health system that encompasses all of UAMS' clinical enterprise including its hospital, regional clinics and clinics it operates or staffs in cooperation with other providers. UAMS is the only adult Level 1 trauma center in the state. U.S. News & World Report recognized UAMS Medical Center as a Best Hospital for 2021-22; ranked its ear, nose and throat program among the top 50 nationwide for the third year; and named five areas as high performing — colon cancer surgery, diabetes, hip replacement, knee replacement and stroke. Forbes magazine ranked UAMS as seventh in the nation on its Best Employers for Diversity list. UAMS also ranked in the top 30% nationwide on Forbes’ Best Employers for Women list and was the only Arkansas employer included. UAMS has 2,876 students, 898 medical residents and six dental residents. It is the state's largest public employer with more than 10,000 employees, including 1,200 physicians who provide care to patients at UAMS, its regional campuses, Arkansas Children's, the VA Medical Center and Baptist Health. Visit www.uams.edu or www.uamshealth.com. Find us on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube or Instagram.