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NHLBI Ad Hoc Minority Committee Sets Sights

Sometimes, the only way to confront complex problems is head on. That's what NHLBI and its ad hoc committee on minority populations are doing -- with creativity as their weapon. The committee represents four U.S. minority populations: African Americans, American Indians and Alaska Natives, Asian and Pacific Islander Americans, and Latino/Hispanic Americans.

The 16-member multidisciplinary committee met recently with NHLBI staff to develop an action plan to help improve minorities' health into the next millennium. The plan includes recommendations on current NHLBI activities and on the development of two new cardiovascular health initiatives -- one for American Indians and Alaska Natives and the other for Asian and Pacific Islander Americans. The group used the powerful symbolism of the "circle" to explain bridging the knowledge gap by sharing information and experiences among the groups to stimulate dissemination of health information and improve the health of minority communities.

NHLBI director Dr. Claude Lenfant, (seated, second from l) meets with the ad hoc committee on minority populations.

In his welcome, NHLBI director Dr. Claude Lenfant said, "We face huge challenges, unfortunately in an era of shrinking resources. Yet, minority populations in the United States already bear a disproportionate burden of cardiovascular disease and, without continued help, the situation will worsen.

"But the past has shown us how effective we can be when we work together," he continued. "Commitment and creativity are powerful public health tools when applied strategically."

Dr. David Baines, an American Indian physician from Idaho and chair of the committee, agreed that creativity is just one of the factors that will be required in the wake of shrinking resources to achieve community-wide dissemination of heart health information to minority populations.

The 2-day meeting concentrated on reviewing two successful NHLBI outreach efforts, including the Coronary Heart Disease (CHD) in Blacks Initiative and the NHLBI Latino Community CVD Prevention and Outreach Initiative, Salud para su Corazón, (Health for Your Heart). Salud para su Corazón was recently recognized by the DHHS Secretary's Award for Distinguished Service.

Key action points and recommendations emerged from the meeting's presentations and discussion groups for each of the four groups. The American Indian and Alaska Native and the Asian and Pacific Islander recommendations focused on new efforts to be initiated. The African American and Latino recommendations focused on developing partnerships and disseminating materials and tools that were developed previously by the CHD in Blacks Initiative and the Salud para su Corazón. Recommendations ranged from involving community members at all levels of the projects to increasing the use of high technology to help speed and broaden dissemination of health information.

The committee is demonstrating what can be accomplished if there is a shared vision among minority communities to improve cardiovascular health.

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