KANSAS CITY, Mo. — A Missouri group is working to reduce the incidence of conditions such as stroke and hypertension among inner-city blacks.
The group spearheading the pilot project is the Sodium Knowledge in Practice Partnership, or SKIP, which the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services (HSS) formed two years ago.
Members of the initiative on Wednesday described what they have learned about public health messaging and working with mom-and-pop grocery stores. They said they were in the process of summarizing their findings, in hopes of obtaining additional funding to continue the work.
Officials involved in the Kansas City project, which ran from the start of this year through fall, outlined their work to about 60 people at the meeting, which was about how to put health data to use addressing community health problems.
Data discussed at the meeting included findings in the health equity series produced this year by the Missouri Foundation for Health.
Presenters also highlighted data on the DSS website through the Missouri Information for Community Assessment.
“We do have to zoom back in eventually and remember that data is really about people,” said Natalie Hampton, who worked on the SKIP project as an official with the Health Communication Research Center at the University of Missouri.
The pilot focused mainly on the 64128 and 64130 Zip codes, she said, and it included a telephone survey of more than 600 residents in several surrounding Zip codes along with in-person interviews.
Some of the research used by the organizers, she said, came from the Missouri Foundation for Health equity series, including data showing that the percentage of the black population with hypertension (41 percent) exceeded that among whites (33.9 percent) and Hispanics (26.2 percent).
Data from the Kansas City Health Department also showed that, between 2000 and 2009, the two SKIP Zip codes had the highest number of deaths from hypertension compared with the rest of the city.
Message testing through the pilot produced a number of significant findings, Hampton said:
People want to see pictures of people that look like them.
It’s more effective to stress immediate positive health effects as opposed to talking about future effects, such as a living longer. “We talked about swollen feet, puffy eyes, and people were interested in that,” she said.
People respond better to messages about eating better as opposed to cutting items from their diets.
Pointing out impacts on other family members can resonate with those who don’t seem inclined to change for their own sakes. “When we talk about families, and (to) definitely be around to see your daughter graduate from college or your granddaughter, people were more interested,” she said.
Officials involved with the campaign said they also have partnered with an effort in Jackson County to have convenience storeowners stock fruits and vegetables.
Ryan Barker, vice president of health policy for the Missouri Foundation for Health, outlined some of the data from the health equity reports that he said caused the most concern for him.
Some of the greatest disparities between blacks and whites, he said, come in the prevalence of communicable diseases. For instance, the ratio of blacks to whites that contract gonorrhea is 26.4-to-1.
He faulted conservative politicians for clamping down on sex education in schools.
Barker also said he was worried about the overall increase in emergency room visits for mental health disorders, which he said are the result of mental health funding cuts.
According to the health equity reports, blacks cite mental health disorders more than whites as the cause for emergency room visits – about 18.5 per 1,000 population versus 11.8 per 1,000 population.
Dr. Rex Archer, Kansas City health director, said Missouri’s health status as a whole has dropped significantly in comparison with the rest of the country, according to data from the United Health Foundation.
Missouri ranked 24th in 1990, he said, but was 42nd in 2012.
“Collectively, we have to wake up to the fact that we have been slipping in this state and sliding and sliding, and sliding downward,” Archer said.
Sponsors of Wednesday’s meeting included the REACH Healthcare Foundation, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, and the Missouri Health Equity Collaborative, a project led by the University of Missouri Center for Health Policy.