TGen Survey Sheds Light on Cardiovascular Health of Avondale Residents
Education and intervention key to reducing risk for heart disease and diabetes

Phoenix, AZ, March 8, 2006-As part of the Healthy Avondale Partnership, the Translational Genomics Research Institute (TGen) released data today that helps shed light on cardiovascular disease in Arizona. The partnership was formed to address chronic disease and promote healthy lifestyles in Avondale, particularly among the Hispanic community, which comprises 46 percent of Avondale residents.
In January 2005, TGen researchers visited Avondale residents to conduct a comprehensive survey of medical and family histories, eating and exercise behavior, and to measure lipid and glucose values to identify risk for cardiovascular disease. All individuals were invited to join an intervention program to reduce their risk of heart disease. Individuals whose behavior or laboratory values were consistent with heart disease or diabetes were referred to health care providers for follow-up medical treatment. Dr. Johanna Wolford, head of TGen's Diabetes and Obesity Research Unit, is leading the Avondale study, which is a component of her wider research interest to uncover the complicated genetic and environmental connections that cause an increased risk in cardiovascular disease in ethnic populations.

High body weight and blood pressure are well-known risk factors for heart disease. Results from the TGen survey indicate that 79% of Avondale adults who were surveyed are overweight, or obese, indicating that a substantial portion of the population is at an increased risk for the development of heart disease. Similarly, although nearly 26% of Avondale adults had been previously diagnosed with high blood pressure by a physician, the TGen study identified an additional 62% of the community had abnormally high blood pressure readings.

Diabetes is one of the biggest risk factors for cardiovascular disease. For people with type 2 diabetes, the death rate from a first heart attack is two to three times the death rate of patients without diabetes. Among the individuals surveyed, over 14% were currently being treated for type 2 diabetes. An additional 25% of study participants had glucose levels normally seen in diabetes or in individuals at high-risk of developing the disease.

"This information is critical because it points to a need for increased preventive healthcare strategies for the medically underserved in this community," said Dr. Wolford. "The study has benefited members of this community by identifying cardiovascular disease and diabetes as major public health problems and now we can begin providing culturally sensitive educational programs to address issues such as proper nutrition, smoking cessation and physical activity programs to decrease the risk of developing these diseases."

Another component of the Healthy Avondale Partnership focuses on education and intervention. The City of Avondale carried out several activities and events that focused on physical activity, healthy choices, healthy eating and preventive screening to promote positive lifestyle changes.

"The mission of Healthy Avondale 2010 is to help each other lead healthier lives," said Avondale Mayor Marie Lopez Rogers. "The partnership with TGen is helping us to take a proactive role in ensuring healthier lifestyles for all our citizens. By identifying what health disparities are out there in our community, we are better prepared to tackle them in the future."

If the effects of the Healthy Avondale project are positive, this approach may serve as an example for community-based interventions for chronic diseases, like cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes. Because there is a high degree of family history for diabetes and cardiovascular disease, long-term plans may incorporate family studies to identify genetic factors that contribute to the higher rates of these diseases in this population.

"The fact that Latinos suffer from disproportionately high rates of diabetes and cardiovascular disease, coupled with the lack of health insurance and an occasional language barrier, underscores the need for immediate and effective interventions," said Maria Portela, TGen's Program Coordinator for the Avondale Project. "The work TGen is doing in Avondale is crucial to improving the lives of this community."

The partnership includes the City of Avondale's Healthy Avondale 2010 initiative, TGen, Sun Health, a non-profit health care provider, and the American Heart Association's Halle Heart Center. Healthy Avondale 2010, is part of a lager effort called Healthy Arizona 2010 and Healthy People 2010, which aims to reduce obesity, cardiovascular disease and other illnesses by 2010. This is the first time the statewide chronic disease plan has been implemented successfully in Arizona.

Funded by an award from the Arizona Department of Health Services' Chronic Disease Fund stemming from the approval of Proposition 303, TGen is now conducting follow-up surveys for Avondale residents in order to determine whether community intervention efforts made by the City were effective in reaching Hispanic residents. Concurrently, TGen researchers are in the process of generating data about health disparities to find out which barriers are impeding this population from living healthier lifestyles.

For more information about the partnership and the free services provided to participants, contact Maria Portela at (602) 343-8825.

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Media Contact:
Amy Erickson-TGen (602) 343-8522

About TGen
The mission of the Translational Genomics Research Institute (TGen) is to make and translate genomic discoveries into advances in human health. Translational genomics research is a relatively new field employing innovative advances arising from the Human Genome Project and applying them to the development of diagnostics, prognostics and therapies for cancer, neurological disorders, diabetes and other complex diseases. TGen is focused on personalized medicine and plans to accomplish its goals through robust and disease-focused research.

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