EngAGE with Heart tackles disparities in heart health

By Kara Burnett

February 28, 2024

Pastor King and Reshema Kemps-Polanco

JOPPATOWNE, Md. — “Hypertension is truly a silent killer, you don’t know the storm that is going on in your body,” said Ann Bayah, an advocate for heart health.

For years, the Hartford County resident, has tried to escape a health scare that has plagued her family for generations.

“This is my dad, he had a love affair with salt. In the end, that’s what took him away from here. My mom also had hypertension, she died early. She was 57,” said Bayah.

According to the U.S Department of Health and Human Services, black women are 50% more likely to have high blood pressure compared to white women.

“When I was growing up, every adult I knew suffered with hypertension. I did know that once you’re diagnosed with hypertension you’ll be on medication for the rest of your life. I didn’t want that,” said Bayah.

In 2014, she had an open chest procedure to repair a tear in her Aorta.

“I could not take another step. I would have died right there on that sidewalk. I was in that much pain. One of the nurses told me, before I was discharged from the hospital, that you must have had a really good surgeon because a lot of people that go through the same procedure do not make it out alive,” said Bayah.

“Heart health disparities has existed for a long time,” said Reverend Dr. Terris King.

Reverend King with Liberty Grace Church, has decades of experience as a former senior executive at the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.

“Too often when African Americans of any income come in, grocery stores move out. So we don’t have access to healthy food, sometimes we don’t have access to primary care doctors, sometimes we don’t have access to education,” said King.

He helps lead the engAGE with Heart program which works to reduce health inequities in Baltimore through education and cardiovascular screenings. The program is supported by Novartis and the Global Coalition on Aging.

“We’re all working together to lower costs, increase trust, but most importantly save lives,” said King.

Local partners in the Baltimore engAGE With Heart program include Liberty Grace Church of God in Ashburton, The Lord’s Church in Park Heights, Sweet Hope Free Will Baptist Church in Dolfield, and Mount Pleasant Development Corporation in Cedonia. There are also two senior centers run by the Baltimore City Health Department, Sandtown Winchester Senior Center in Sandtown-Winchester and Zeta Center for Healthy and Active Aging in Central Park Heights.

Medical professionals are brought into these spaces to check cholesterol levels, blood pressure and provide preventative care.

“There are those that would try to get you to believe that it is solely genetic, but here in this church we say the devil is a liar. If you give these communities the resources and support they need, we can combat and eliminate the inequities,” said King.

He advocates for his community and the loved ones he’s lost.

“I see in the eyes of every person we care for, my mother. That’s my driving force, to do for her what was not done. She did not receive equitable caring health care. That is the legacy of my mom and what this church stands for,” said King.

Source: wmar2news