The National Black Church Initiative Launches Pilot Heart First Program in Miami, Fla and Charlotte, NC

Rev Anthony Evans

Heart Failure is Killing African Americans

This program could be the beginning of a long-term project that will strike at the cultural root causes of why heart failure is so prevalent in the African American community.”

— Rev. Anthony Evans, President of the National Black Church Initiative

WASHINGTON, DC, UNITED STATES, October 10, 2023 / — The National Black Church Initiative (NBCI), a coalition of 150,000 African American and Latino churches that constitute 27.7 million churchgoers, is launching its Heart First comprehensive program. This heart education program is the first of its kind created specifically for African American congregations by the National Black Church Initiative and Black leading cardiologists. The program is funded, in part, by Cytokinetics, a late-stage biopharmaceutical company committed to developing potential medicines that impact the mechanics of muscle and may improve the lives of people living with debilitating diseases.

The first phase of the program is expected to last until December 2023. It will involve five churches in Coconut Grove Miami, FL and five churches in the Greater Charlotte, NC area. Each of the congregations will have an opportunity to hear from an African American cardiologist, thus laying the foundation for a more comprehensive approach in 2024.

The focus of this heart disease education program will be heart failure. The program will focus on what heart failure is, risk factors, symptoms, and how to prevent and manage heart failure. The critical factor here is to work with the Black Church to come up with a more accurate definition of heart failure including the cultural nuances of how it uniquely affects the black community in contrast to other communities.

Working to more clearly define heart failure may offer critical clues on how to create a sustainable program to effectively prevent the growth of heart failure in the black community. There will be some preliminary and baseline data collection to help us in shaping an effective prevention program.

Reverend Anthony Evans, President of the National Black Church Initiative, states “This is so exciting because this pilot program could be the beginning of a long-term project that will strike at the cultural root causes of why heart failure is so prevalent in the African American community.”

The Heart Failure Society of America defines heart failure as a progressive condition in which the heart’s muscle gets injured from something like a heart attack of high blood pressure and gradually loses its ability to pump enough blood to supply the body’s needs. The heart can be affected in two ways – it either becomes weak and unable to pump blood (we call this situation systolic heart failure) or becomes stiff and unable to fill the blood adequately (we call this situation diastolic heart failure.) Ultimately, both conditions lead to retention of extra liquid or congestion. So, when patients develop symptoms, we call it congestive heart failure. Many people don’t even know they have it because symptoms are often mistaken for signs of getting older. Heart failure does not develop overnight – it’s a progressive disease that starts slowly and gets worse over time.

According to Sabra C. Lewsey, MD, MPH and Khadijah Breathett, MD, MS heart failure (HF) affects 6.2 million U.S. adults and remains a leading cause of death and morbidity.1 As the population ages, HF prevalence is expected to exceed 8 million, impacting 1 in every 33 U.S. adults over the next decade. By 2030, HF total costs are anticipated to top $69.8 billion, representing a vast and pressing public health concern. Racial and ethnic minorities are disproportionately impacted by HF burden and racial disparities in HF care and outcomes have long been enumerated in the literature. In spite of rapid pharmacologic and therapeutic advancement in HF care and notable gains in overall HF survival, racial and ethnic disparities in HF burden and outcomes persist.

Self-identified African-American or Black patients, and Hispanic patients have disproportionately high prevalence of HF in comparison to other racial groups. In individuals without baseline cardiovascular disease, as included in the Multi-Ethnic Study of Atherosclerosis (MESA), African-American participants had the highest risk of developing HF, followed by Hispanic, White, and Chinese participants (4.6, 3.5, 2.4, and 1.0 per 1000 person-years), respectively. Similar findings were noted over a longer follow up period in the Atherosclerosis Risk in Communities (ARIC) Community Surveillance data, in which African-American men and women had the highest burden of new-onset HF cases and the highest age-adjusted 30-day case fatality rate in comparison to White men and women.

African-American, American Indian, and Hispanic individuals have a higher burden of modifiable risk factors, such as hypertension, obesity, and diabetes that may increase HF risk. Structural cardiac changes, including left ventricular hypertrophy (LVH) and asymptomatic left ventricular (LV) systolic and diastolic dysfunction are more prevalent, associated with increased clinical HF and mortality risk, and underrecognized in African-American and Hispanic patients. African-American patients are also more likely to have heart failure from non-ischemic causes. Though HF risk increases with age, African-American and Hispanic patients are more likely than White patients to have a younger age of HF onset.


The National Black Church Initiative (NBCI) is a coalition of 150,000 African American and Latino churches working to eradicate racial disparities in healthcare, technology, education, housing, and the environment. The mission of NBCI is to provide critical wellness information to all of its members, congregants, churches and the public. NBCI utilizing faith and sound health science and partners with major organizations and officials reduce racial disparities in the variety of areas cited above. NBCI’s programs are governed by credible statistical analysis, science based strategies and techniques, and methods that work and offers faith-based, out-of-the-box and cutting-edge solutions to stubborn economic and social issues.

Anthony Evans
National Black Church Initiative
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