Of the community, for the community

Trusted local voices were our key to both understanding CVD in underrepresented populations and increasing early screening and diagnosis.

With a new indication for stroke prevention in cardiovascular disease (CVD) patients on the verge of approval, the team in charge of its launch asked Inside Edge for assistance in raising awareness of the disease, improving access to screening, and increasing CVD diagnoses within Black and Hispanic/Latino populations.

Guided by our team’s belief that “you can’t help the community if you don’t understand the community”, we advised the client to take a step back in order to move forward: we would first conduct two Advisory Board sessions — one, held in the center of the “stroke belt”, focused on Blacks, the other, on the West Coast, on Hispanics/Latinos. In each, we brought medical practitioners, health advocates, and payers together to explore the culturally- and regionally-specific barriers to identifying and treating CVD in underrepresented populations.

As we expected, the conversations proved invaluable, enabling us to uncover difficult, often-missed, realities. Most tragically, we found that a focus on amputation as the primary, first-line treatment for CVD in Black and Hispanic/Latino communities was inhibiting patients from seeking care when symptoms appeared — a self-perpetuating cycle, as late diagnosis often made amputation inevitable. Equally troubling were deep-seated perceptions of clinical study participants as “guinea pigs” that suppressed engagement in trials that would bring alternative, early interventions to this population.

The good news? In those insights the Inside Edge team saw clear opportunities for community-based programming strategies. We worked with the client to select three Southern cities for a first pilot. We connected them with faith, education, and community partners and helped them plan patient awareness events and prepare meeting agendas. We developed a suite of videos, brochures, and posters that featured local Black and Hispanic/Latino physicians and that addressed uncomfortable topics head-on. And we recommended tactics that could move the program beyond passive education to active identification of potential disease — and refer patients to minority-focused doctors who were committed to early intervention with newer treatments for CVD symptoms.

The pilot represents a first step, to be sure, but a critical one in understanding how to better help underrepresented patients living with CVD maintain a higher quality of health and independence.

Do you have a similar challenge and want to know more about how we could work together? Email Dominic Fonseca