Inequities in hypertension control in the United States exposed and exacerbated by COVID-19 and the role of home blood pressure and virtual health care during and after the COVID-19 pandemic
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The COVID-19 pandemic is a public health crisis, having killed more than 514 000 US adults as of March 2, 2021. COVID-19 mitigation strategies have unintended consequences on managing chronic conditions such as hypertension, a leading cause of cardiovascular disease and health disparities in the United States. During the first wave of the pandemic in the United States, the combination of observed racial/ethnic inequities in COVID-19 deaths and social unrest reinvigorated a national conversation about systemic racism in health care and society. The 4th Annual University of Utah Translational Hypertension Symposium gathered frontline clinicians, researchers, and leaders from diverse backgrounds to discuss the intersection of these 2 critical social and public health phenomena and to highlight preexisting disparities in hypertension treatment and control exacerbated by COVID-19. The discussion underscored environmental and socioeconomic factors that are deeply embedded in US health care and research that impact inequities in hypertension. Structural racism plays a central role at both the health system and individual levels. At the same time, virtual healthcare platforms are being accelerated into widespread use by COVID-19, which may widen the divide in healthcare access across levels of wealth, geography, and education. Blood pressure control rates are declining, especially among communities of color and those without health insurance or access to health care. Hypertension awareness, therapeutic lifestyle changes, and evidence-based pharmacotherapy are essential. There is a need to improve the implementation of community-based interventions and blood pressure self-monitoring, which can help build patient trust and increase healthcare engagement.
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