A Heart for Preventing Hypertension

Avondale Clinic benefits from American Heart Association’s Target BP program

Dr. John Raife, an emergency physician, spent his career caring for vulnerable populations in metro Phoenix via his work in the emergency departments at St. Joseph’s Hospital and Medical Center and Banner Good Samaritan Medical Center for 45 years. His passion for heart health and education was a major focus of his career, and he served as a two-time president of the American Heart Association’s (AHA) Phoenix and Southwest divisions.

“John was loved by all his co-workers, was a great mentor to medical students, taught a variety of cardiology classes, and had a passion for working with the less fortunate,” Katie said. “He enjoyed the challenges of working in inner-city emergency departments (EDs).”

When his health began to decline several years ago, his wife, Katie, a nurse practitioner who focused much of her work in cardiology, wanted to find a way to honor him. She approached the AHA to set up a grant-funded project in her husband’s name to improve care for those with hypertension (HTN) in high-risk populations.

The Target BP (blood pressure) project is a national program sponsored by the AHA. Over the past three years, the Raifes provided funding that would support improving blood pressure control in under-served populations – specifically, persons experiencing homelessness – through health clinics. Many of the clients are Hispanic or Black and have a higher incidence of hypertension (HTN). Each clinic decides how the grant funds can best serve their patients.

While volunteering to administer COVID vaccinations in early 2021, Katie met Janet McNally, a volunteer nurse at Mission of Mercy (MOM), who told her about MOM and suggested she look into volunteering at one of MOM’s six local clinics.

Katie toured MOM’s Avondale clinic shortly thereafter and was impressed with the amazing care that is provided at all the MOM clinics. Currently, she volunteers with MOM most Tuesdays with Dr. Brad Smith and Dr. Roselynde Bryant.

After meeting MOM volunteer physician Dr. Carie Barlow and the care team at Avondale, Katie and the AHA board decided to fund a Target BP program at MOM’s Avondale clinic. The goal is to increase compliance among patients with high BP, one of the top three most prevalent health conditions treated in MOM clinics.

The grant is funding 100 blood pressure machines for patients to use at home, incentives (like grocery gift cards) to increase compliance, two new professional blood pressure monitors for the clinic, and educational materials in English and Spanish.

“Untreated hypertension is a major cause of heart disease and stroke. MOM already provides excellent care to patients with hypertension and provides medications as needed. Sometimes the patients need additional tools to help with medication compliance and follow-up visits. Home monitoring of blood pressure is an excellent way to accomplish this. This also incorporates the goals of the Target BP program,” Katie says.

MOM will be tracking the BP readings of Avondale clinic patients throughout the grant period to see if the home monitoring and education helps to improve BP measurements with the end goal of helping to prevent heart disease and stroke.