Health awareness

Supporting Heart Health in Black and African American Communities

African American couple consulting with their doctor

Heart health is vital to the well-being and overall health for individuals and communities. However, cardiovascular disease risk factors differ significantly among different racial and ethnic groups, specifically Black and African American communities. At Humana, we are dedicated to identifying and addressing racial and ethnic health disparities to help improve the health of every person we serve.

The American Heart Association reports that Black adults have a higher rate of heart disease compared to white adults, with a 30% higher age-adjusted death rate from cardiovascular disease. Risk factors for heart disease, including high blood pressure, obesity and diabetes, are more prevalent in Black populations compared to other racial and ethnic groups in the U.S. according to the AHA.  Data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows that Black individuals are more likely to have a first heart attack at a younger age and experience higher rates of stroke-related death.

As a physician, I have witnessed the impact of heart disease on my patients. Alarmingly, many of my Black patients have experienced early heart disease or untimely death by heart attacks, so I am incredibly passionate about prioritizing heart health in Black and African American communities. Passion is not enough though – given the seriousness of this problem, we truly need action, which is why I am proud of the work we do at Humana.

Humana is driven by a mission to build trust and provide holistic care, while reducing barriers to health. In our 2023 Health Equity Issue Brief, we describe health disparities experienced by our members and highlight the urgent need to tackle them from an enterprise approach. We are adept at disaggregating health and healthcare data, allowing us to gain greater insights into root causes of cardiovascular and other disparities. This has enabled us to zoom in on three important strategic priorities to reduce disparities, focusing on: access to care, quality of care and nonmedical barriers to care. Patients at risk of cardiovascular disease need access to primary and preventive care services, including wellness and behavioral health.

They also need high quality care in which they receive culturally competent, bias-free, evidence-based screening, treatment and care management in partnership with their clinical teams. Finally, these patients often have social needs that may adversely impact their health, such as food insecurity or housing instability. Making a difference involves tackling all three of these priority areas for each person we serve, regardless of their background and demographics. One way we do this is through training and re-training our employees with the knowledge and tools to meet the needs of our diverse members, by expanding our cultural humility and implicit bias training programs for Humana employees.

We also work with community-based organizations across the country through formal partnerships in which we support their work and initiatives that promote health and address needs of marginalized populations.  As an example, through a partnership with the Volunteers of America we have deployed community health workers in the historically underserved area of West Louisville, KY to serve as trusted resources and advocates, collaborating closely with Black members with cardiovascular and other chronic illnesses to improve access to care, support medication adherence and help remove social barriers to health. We have made investments in many other community-based organizations focused on health that enable them to serve underserved communities in meaningful ways, such as the MLK Sr. Community Resources Collaborative in Atlanta, GA, Nourish KC in Kansas City, MO, and the Louisiana Mental Health Association in Baton Rouge, LA.

Our IMPACT Network Resource Group (NRG), Humana’s workplace affinity group for Black and African American employees and their allies, has devoted thousands of hours to volunteering and serving with community-based partners, schools and faith-based institutions. Through our partnerships we are also leveraging technology and virtual care navigators to help people with chronic disease better understand the complexities of their conditions and empower them to make informed decisions about their health.

It is imperative that we commit to addressing heart health disparities for Black and African American patients in ways that are actionable and enduring. Analyzing our data to understand differences in outcomes from Black and African American members, employee training and upskilling, community investments, program design and innovation and partnerships are examples of strategies we have leveraged to ensure that everyone we serve has access to the most equitable care and optimal heart health.

For more information on heart health disparities in Black and African American communities, how to address and understand these disparities and how to work towards achieving health equity for all, visit