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January 01, 2018

By Gary A. Puckrein, PhD

24 October 2017 | WASHINGTON D.C.

New initiative will help develop strategies for reversing deadly disparities among African Americans

Aetna, the National Minority Quality Forum (NMQF), and its wholly-owned subsidiary Sustainable Healthy Communities (SHC), have joined forces to analyze the underlying factors driving disparities in heart failure treatment and outcomes among African Americans relative to other populations. This collaboration will create an action plan for reducing the condition’s deadly and disproportionate toll on this population.

Heart failure (HF) contributes to 1 in 9 deaths in the United States, afflicting nearly 6 million adults and costing the nation more than $30 billion each year. In the Medicare program, HF accounts for more than one-third of the costs and 42 percent of hospital admissions.

African Americans are especially vulnerable. African Americans are more likely to develop HF, they develop it earlier, and they face a faster reduction in functioning and ultimately death. African Americans also account for a higher percentage of hospitalization and re-hospitalization. The efficacy of traditional treatments in African Americans reveals considerable unknowns as to the biological and genetic underpinnings of the disease in subpopulations, pointing to a need for further research. The HF disparity also reflects uncontrolled hypertension and suboptimal access to evidence-based care. Efforts to reduce the burden of HF on patients and the health care system must focus on African Americans and provision of evidence-based care for this population, including approaches common to all patients with HF, therapies uniquely beneficial to African Americans, further research into therapeutic genetics, and social determinants of health that contribute to disparities.

“Congestive heart failure disproportionately impacts African Americans. Unfortunately this all-too common condition has an earlier age of onset and follows a more severe course in this population.” said Dr. Harold L. Paz, executive vice president and chief medical officer of Aetna.  “By partnering with NMQF and SHC, we will explore the factors that contribute to this racial health disparity, and collaboratively develop a strategy that advances evidence-based care with the goal of improving health equity.”

“We are extremely excited to be working with Aetna to document the research and treatment needs of African Americans with heart failure, so as to produce equity in future studies and care,” said Dr. Puckrein, Founder, CEO, and President of NMQF. “Neither patients nor payers can afford the status quo.”

Over the next few months, the organizations will convene leading experts, clinicians, patient representatives, and other stakeholders to establish a results-oriented plan for measurably enhancing HF outcomes among African Americans.

“This collaboration will produce an accountable roadmap to the application of evidence-based care for African Americans with HF,” notes Dr. Hall, COO and EVP of SHC, “that we will translate into results through advocacy, education, data analysis, and quality improvement.” 

About The National Minority Quality Forum and Sustainable Healthy Communities

NMQF was founded by Gary A. Puckrein, PhD, President and Chief Executive Officer in 1998 to address the critical need for strengthening national and local efforts to use evidence-based, data-driven initiatives to guide programs to eliminate the disproportionate burden of premature death and preventable illness for racial and ethnic minorities and other special populations. Sustainable Healthy Communities, LLC, its wholly-owned subsidiary, is a pioneering health care improvement information company that continuously measures population health, providing actionable analysis to clinicians, health care systems, researchers, corporations, and policy-makers as well as patients, their care-givers, and community leaders. Through its exclusive data access, SHC uniquely promotes cost-effective health outcomes for all through big data analytics coupled with impactful visualization and education. The data analytics are reported in multiple formats guiding innovative efforts to achieve the triple aim—better health care, improving the health of the population and communities, and affordable care.

About Aetna
Aetna is one of the nation’s leading diversified health care benefits companies, serving an estimated 37.9 million people with information and resources to help them make better informed decisions about their health care. Aetna offers a broad range of traditional, voluntary and consumer-directed health insurance products and related services, including medical, pharmacy, dental, behavioral health, group life and disability plans, and medical management capabilities, Medicaid health care management services, workers’ compensation administrative services and health information technology products and services. Aetna’s customers include employer groups, individuals, college students, part-time and hourly workers, health plans, health care providers, governmental units, government-sponsored plans, labor groups and expatriates. For more information, see and learn about how Aetna is helping to build a healthier world @AetnaNews .


Colvin M et al., Heart Failure in Non-Caucasians, Women and Older Adults, A White Paper on Special Populations from the Heart Failure Society of America Guideline Committee, Journal of Cardiac Failure Vol. 21 No. 8 2015.

Yancy CW, Jessup M, Bozkurt B, Butler J, Casey DE Jr, Drazner MH, Fonarow GC, Geraci SA, Horwich T, Januzzi JL, Johnson MR, Kasper EK, Levy WC, Masoudi FA, McBride PE, McMurray JJV, Mitchell JE, Peterson PN, Riegel B, Sam F, Stevenson LW, Tang WHW, Tsai EJ, Wilkoff BL. 2013 ACCF/AHA guideline for the management of heart failure: a report of the American College of Cardiology Foundation/ American Heart Association Task Force on Practice Guidelines. Circulation. 2013;128:e240–e327.


About The Forum

The National Minority Quality Forum (NMQF) is a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit, non-partisan, independent research and education organization. The vision of NMQF is a health services research, delivery and financing system that provides quality and effective health services to the biodiverse American general population of the 21st century. NMQF helps assure that national and local quality improvement initiatives are informed by scientific evidence, and place a priority on the quality of care and patient outcomes in all populations.

Media Contact

Laura Lee Hall, PhD, COO and EVP at Sustainable Healthy Communities, LLC | 202.854.0667