Heart Healthy Lenoir kicks off in Kinston

More than 100 community members, policymakers, health care providers and business owners joined researchers from the UNC-Chapel Hill and East Carolina University Tuesday to kick off the Heart Healthy Lenoir Project in downtown Kinston.

More than 100 community members, policymakers, health care providers and business owners joined researchers from the UNC-Chapel Hill and East Carolina University Tuesday to kick off the Heart Healthy Lenoir Project in downtown Kinston.

Heart Healthy Lenoir is a $10 million, 5-year project focused on reducing heart disease in Lenoir County, which has one of the highest rates of death from heart disease in the state. The researchers will use a community-based participatory research approach to seek input from community members on how the project can best help the community reduce heart disease.

The first step in getting community input came Tuesday through small group discussions. Attendees discussed topics including the best ways to communicate information to the community, how to reach physician practices and the genetics of heart health. Researchers from UNC will use this input to design a project website and informational materials and to recruit doctors and patients for the study.

The project will spend about a year building relationships with the community before beginning studies. They will rely on a community advisory board to guide the project and are currently identifying people to serve on the board.

The project will include a clinic-based program focused on reducing high blood pressure and a study on how genetics and family history influence heart health.

Dr. Cam Patterson, chair of cardiology at UNC, explained the genetic component of the study.

“People are 99% alike,” said Patterson. “But we’re trying to identifying what the 1% differences mean to heart health.” Patterson used an illustration of glasses of water to show how people start with different levels of water based on their family history, but their behaviors and diet are what fill the cup to the brim.

Alice Ammerman, director of the UNC Center for Health Promotion and Disease Prevention and professor of nutrition at the UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health, is co-leading the project with Patterson. She said Lenoir County was uniquely positioned for the study, because of the high rate of heart disease and the strong community assets to support a study.

Another component of the project is to investigate whether a small business focused on health issues could be created in Lenoir County. The project will set up an office in the county and hire local members of the research team.

“This is the biggest community health news of the day,” said Constance Hengel, Director of Community Programming and Development at Lenoir Memorial Hospital. “We are so pleased to have this project come to Lenoir County.”

The project is funded by the National Institutes of Health and is based at the UNC Center for Health Promotion and Disease Prevention, a CDC Prevention Research Center.

For more information about Heart Healthy Lenoir, contact Beverly Garcia at 1-866-273-1942 or e-mail beverly.garcia@unc.edu .