Nurses will play a critical role in AHA goals for 2024

Nancy Artinian, PhD, RN, FAHA, and Yvonne Commodore-Mensah, PhD, MHS, RN, FAHA
Nancy Artinian, PhD, RN, FAHA, and Yvonne Commodore-Mensah, PhD, MHS, RN, FAHA

The COVID-19 pandemic brought a lot of changes to the medical community, and one of those changes was to the AHA’s Impact Goal for 2030. In fact, the goal was re-evaluated and set for 2024: “The AHA will advance cardiovascular health for all, including identifying and removing barriers to health care access and quality.”

Nurses will play a large role in achieving that goal, and the OnDemand session “AHA 2024 Impact Goal: Role for Nursing and Nurses” provides further detail.

Nancy Artinian, PhD, RN, FAHA, visiting professor at the Michigan State University College of Nursing, said the National Institutes of Health defines health disparities as differences in the incidents, prevalence, mortality and burden of diseases and other adverse conditions that exist among specific population groups in the United States.

“Those disparities are a particular type of health difference that’s closely linked with economic or environmental disadvantages,” she said. “There’s an urgent need to reduce health disparities because people of under-represented races and ethnicities in this country are growing. The percentage of racial and ethnic minorities in the U.S. will almost double by the year 2050.”

Although there have been notable improvements in the overall health of the U.S. in the past two decades, there are “striking disparities” in the burden of illness and experienced by people of under-represented races and ethnicities, including Black, Hispanic, Native American, Alaska Native and Asian American people, she said.

Black adults, for example, are 32% more likely to die from cardiovascular disease and 45% more likely to die from stroke than White adults.  Dr. Artinian said aiming for health equity is key to resolving these health disparities and that collaboration will be the cornerstone of achieving that goal.

“That means collaborating with community members, housing authorities, schools, religious institutions and other social networks and associations that allow health and human service providers to better support their clients,” she said. “Nurses can help this along by developing a greater understanding of the context within which health occurs, advocating for policy changes that promote safe work and living conditions and creating community prevention programs.”

Maria Teresa Lira, RN, MScN, FPCNA, will explore the environmental influences on health equity and cardiovascular health, including natural, social and personal environments. Natural environment can include anything from seasons to sunlight and day and night cycles. Social environment can include pollution, social networks and socioeconomic status. And the personal environment can include personal choices such as physical activity, nutrition and smoking.

“Each of these environments can have an effect on cardiovascular health,” she said. “For example, the health impact of pollution in the air has been compared to the effects of hypertension, smoking and physical inactivity.”

Social media in recent years has played a growing role in the health choices that people make. Lira said this includes so-called influencers promoting junk foods and unhealthy food product placement on some of their platforms.

“Regular social media daily use has been associated with a reinforcement of behaviors at both extremes of health behaviors,” she said.

Yvonne Commodore-Mensah, PhD, MHS, RN, FAHA, assistant professor at Johns Hopkins School of Nursing, said that equality and equity are different from one another, and it is important to recognize that difference.

“Equality has to do with giving everyone the same resources, whereas equity involves distributing resources based on need,” she said. “Unfortunately, society’s playing field is not level. Some people start off life at a head start, and some start off at a disadvantage. Health equity is focused on making sure people have exactly what they need in order to be healthy.”

 Dr. Commodore-Mensah pointed out racial and economic disparities arising from a number of conditions, including social conditions, economic policies, the physical environment and health system factors.

“When we talk about describing differences between Black and White people, for instance, we also have to acknowledge that these differences are not necessarily because of skin color but because of complex interactions between these factors,” she said.

Dr. Commodore-Mensah said it was encouraging to see health equity featured in the AHA 2024 goal and that nurses will play a big part in achieving that goal.

“Nurses play a critical role in advancing health equity,” she said. “But we need the resources to do that effectively — we need robust education, we need supportive work environments. But we also need autonomy to be able to support patients appropriately.”

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