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Hank Q1Q2-2021

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Pressure Drop

Two women in face shields and masks working at the drive-up hypertension clinic

Reaching out: Vallari Shukla, MD, and other physicians collaborated with Coalition union members to host 2 Northern California health fairs for African American patients with high blood pressure.

Drive-up hypertension clinic puts patients on road to recovery

Aparna Gulati, MD, was growing alarmed. Many African American patients with high blood pressure were missing their doctors’ appointments.

“Due to COVID-19 fears, many of our patients weren’t coming in for even a blood pressure check,” said Dr. Gulati, medical director of Chronic Conditions Management for the Greater Southern Alameda County area in Northern California.

“African Americans are at the highest risk for all kinds of morbidity due to hypertension.”

Nationally, more than 40% of African Americans have high blood pressure — a rate much higher than other racial and ethnic groups.

Like providers across Kaiser Permanente, Dr. Gulati is working to reduce the disparity. In November, she and her team collaborated with Coalition union members to host 2 free blood pressure fairs for African American patients with hypertension.

Cashier service receptionists, members of OPEIU Local 29, called nearly 2,000 patients to notify them about the event. Lab workers from SEIU-UHW also provided their services.

“Many of our patients have critical needs,” said receptionist Alexis Machado, who worked at both events. “They might have slipped through the cracks if they hadn’t shown up. They all seemed happy to be here and get their preventative screenings taken care of right then.  It was very rewarding for me.”

Meeting patients’ needs

In all, 500 African American patients drove up to receive blood pressure checks. Flu shots, lab tests, mammograms and colorectal cancer screening kits also were available.

“We can both get our blood pressure checked without getting out of the truck,” said Kaiser Permanente member Tanya Leno, as she and husband William Leno drove through the outdoor event.

Organizers were thrilled with the turnout — and results. About 25% of patients with high blood pressure didn’t have it under control and needed their medication adjusted. They also received follow-up appointments.

“We used the opportunity to teach patients the importance of measuring blood pressure and keeping it controlled, investing in a blood pressure machine, and following up with their physician,” said Dr. Gulati. “Coming from a physician, it tends to stick more, and will hopefully increase awareness.”

Metrics/Data - Color By the Numbers

Northern California drive-up health fair services included:

  • 500 blood pressure checks conducted
  • 130 colorectal cancer screening kits distributed
  • 100 blood pressure medicines adjusted
  • 50 mammogram screenings completed
  • 45 emergency blood draws for diabetes performed
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