Cardiovascular Health Disparities and Structural Competencies

By: Alexis Edmonds

Structural competency is the ability for health professionals to understand how symptom expression and disease can be affected by various social determinants of health and public policy.  This concept can be beneficial to cardiovascular health and disease research because we are aware of the fact that a wide range of cardiovascular diseases, and other diseases in general, can affect minority groups disproportionally, and that people of lower socioeconomic status are much more predisposed to developing cardiovascular disease. With structural competency we can begin to investigate the mechanisms in which these upstream factors can ultimately influence the health outcomes of marginalized patients and eventually be able to mend the gaps created by these prevalent health disparities. As these gaps are becoming more exposed from the COVID-19 outbreak, understanding these influences can enable clinicians to tend to their patients both accordingly and effectively. 

My group and I are focusing on hypertension in pregnant women and we hope to highlight the increased likelihood of developing it due to lower income and education levels. Reasons for this increased likelihood, more specifically amongst African American women, range from lower socioeconomic status/educational attainment to their being highly predisposed to cardiovascular disease. Depending on these factors, your ability to incorporate a healthy diet into your lifestyle and actively seek and receive exceptional prenatal care can vary to a tremendous degree.  

In terms of measuring the ability for our projects to address structural competency, asking the audience whether or not they were able to understand how social determinants of health have impact on health outcomes in a survey could help. In our video we aim to highlight how these determinants end up affecting African American women to a greater extent than other racial groups and how they can hopefully take preventative measures to offset these factors. In our administered survey, we anticipate to discover how effective our video was in achieving this. With delivering this information, we have to be sure that it reaches affected communities. Social media can allow our information to be easily spread to a variety of groups. In regards to science communication, I believe that the level in which they are able to understand the topic at hand is directly related our success with science communication. The ultimate goal of science communication is to accurately and effectively deliver information to a general audience who will hopefully understand and apply the information they have learned into their own lives. Specific questions in our survey asking about the audience’s ability to understand the risks, symptoms and effects associated with hypertension during pregnancy (in a very short quiz-like fashion) can help us understand our effectiveness in delivering this information. We will also have questions asking the viewer how likely they are to modify their lifestyle after viewing the video and which preventative measures they would take to do so. This feedback will allow us to determine our success in encouraging the audience to assess the risks present in their current lifestyles.

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