Alexandria, LA — As the nation battled COVID-19 over the past year, light has been shed on chronic disease in our communities.

For instance, cardiovascular disease is one of the most common chronic diseases and the No. 1 killer in the state of Louisiana. Central Louisiana Area Health Education Center (AHEC) now has a program in place to help change that.

And Rapides Regional Medical Center is ready to help.

In an effort to provide early detection of high blood pressure in our communities – and reduce the prevalence of heart disease and stroke - Rapides Regional Medical Center donated 20 blood pressure monitoring devices to Central Louisiana AHEC to begin community-based blood pressure monitoring programs. These programs will provide blood pressure monitoring at community-based organizations in Central Louisiana where people gather on a regular basis.

This program will begin by the end of August at locations in Grant, Sabine and Vernon parishes.

Individuals screened will not only receive vital information to manage hypertension, but will also be connected to local clinical partners for medical follow-up to help monitor and control their hypertension. The goal of this program is to screen those in rural and underserved areas in order to provide adequate access to medical care, educate about hypertension and gain better community well-being.

“With the creation of this program in rural communities, CLAHEC and Rapides Regional hope to make a great impact in the health of those parishes moving forward,” said Charla Ducote, vice president, RRMC. “Community screening and community education is a great first step for these parishes to become aware of their heart health.”

As of 2018, over 50% of adults in Grant Parish and 40.7% of adults in Vernon Parish are living with high blood pressure, which are both greater than the prevalence in the entire state (2018, Professional Research Consultants). In Sabine Parish, 50.8% of adults are obese – the greatest prevalence of any parish in our state. Obesity is a significant risk factor for developing high blood pressure and cardiovascular disease.

“Residents of rural parishes are faced with numerous healthcare disadvantages. This blood pressure monitoring program will allow these residents the opportunity to be screened in places that they visit regularly and be connected to a healthcare provider in their area to help manage their heart health. CLAHEC is very thankful to Rapides Regional Medical Center for continuing to invest in opportunities to better the health of the residents in the communities that we both serve,” said Gabrielle Juneau, CLAHEC CEO.