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Disparities/Minority Health

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An educational and support program can improve blood pressure control among immigrant Korean American seniors

Korean Americans in the United States are predominantly first-generation immigrants and they typically experience drastic lifestyle changes when they arrive in this country. One side effect of the stress related to acculturation, diet, and lifestyle changes may be high blood pressure (HBP).

Studies show that senior Korean Americans have a high prevalence of high blood pressure and frequently experience severe HPB-related complications such as stroke. A pilot educational and support program can significantly improve blood pressure control among senior Korean Americans. The program includes structured behavioral education on HBP management, home BP monitoring, and monthly support groups facilitated by a bilingual nurse.

Of the 49 Korean American seniors (60 years or older) who agreed to participate in the study, 31 stayed involved in the program and completed the followup interviews at 6 months. The proportion of program seniors who had blood pressure control (less than 140/90 mm Hg) rose from 29 percent at baseline to 69 percent 6 months later. Likewise, the mean systolic and diastolic BP values of 142.7 mm Hg and 87.1 mm Hg at baseline decreased to 129.3 mm Hg and 75.3 mm Hg, respectively, after 6 months of followup.

These results highlight the efficacy of the self-help program for this traditionally underserved immigrant group. The 2-hour weekly education sessions were held for 6 weeks at three community sites. They were delivered by nurses and aimed at improving knowledge of HBP and its treatment, reducing cardiovascular risk factors, promoting self-care behaviors for BP control, and informing Korean American seniors about available resources and strategies for managing stress.

Each participant received an electronic BP monitor and was shown how to use it. Monthly support groups provided emotional support. The study was supported in part by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (HS13160).

More details are in "Constructing and testing a self-help intervention program for high blood pressure control in Korean American seniors—a pilot study," by Miyong T. Kim, Ph.D., R.N., F.A.A.N., Hae-Ra Han, Ph.D., R.N., Hyun Jeong Park, M.S.N., M.P.H., C.R.N.P., and others, in the March/April 2006 Journal of Cardiovascular Nursing 21(2), pp. 77-84.

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