PRC Research

Research Focus

Current funding makes possible the work of the ARPRC Core Units, which includes a research project that focuses on control of high blood pressure (also known as hypertension). The project consists of a demonstration of an innovative and cost-effective method to help control high blood pressure.

Blood Pressure Control: A Critical Health Issue for Arkansas

For its research project, the ARPRC chose to focus on high blood pressure because it plays a major role in overall health and because so many Arkansans (and Americans) have uncontrolled high blood pressure.

In overall health, Arkansas ranks 48th nationally. The state’s disease and death rates are among the highest in the nation for cardiovascular disease (heart disease and stroke), some cancers, and diabetes. These are chronic diseases, which are diseases that go on for a long time and in some cases are not easily cured.

Arkansas’ rates for risk factors that contribute to chronic disease, such as smoking, obesity, and hypertension, are also among the worst in the nation. Arkansas’s rate of smoking among adults is 27 percent, compared to 17.8 percent nationally.

In 2015, the state’s adult obesity rate was the nation’s highest at 35.9 percent. Being obese means one has a greater chance for developing other health conditions and diseases including high  blood pressure, diabetes, heart disease, and some cancers. Nearly half of the state’s adult population has high blood pressure; in an estimated two-thirds of cases, the high blood pressure are uncontrolled.

Black Arkansans have higher rates of disease and death compared to white Arkansans. Blacks are more likely to have diabetes or cardiovascular disease and are more likely to die of a heart attack, diabetes, cancer, or a stroke than whites.

The racial and ethnic disparities in chronic disease and death rates are compounded by Arkansas being a predominantly rural state with more than two-thirds of its residents living outside urban areas.

Black people living in rural areas in the South, compared to those living in urban areas or white people, are more likely to experience conditions that harm health: poverty, fewer opportunities for education and job training, as well as fewer job opportunities, especially those which pay well. They are less likely to have health insurance or adequate access to health care, due to provider shortages. As a result, Southern rural blacks are less likely to get needed preventive care and are less likely to be diagnosed or treated for diabetes, cardiovascular disease and conditions such as high blood pressure.

High blood pressure, which is easily controlled with proper treatment, is a major risk factor for stroke and other chronic diseases, including heart disease and kidney disease. The Arkansas rate for stroke mortality among black Arkansans is one of the highest nationally. Sixty percent of black Arkansans have high blood pressure and for half of them, it is uncontrolled. Black adults are less likely to be aware that they have high blood pressure, compared to whites. Undiagnosed hypertension is highest among adults ages 18-59, particularly among males.

Adult Hypertension Rates for the US and Arkansas

Percent with Hypertension Percent with Uncontrolled Hypertension
United States
Overall 30.4 % 16.3 %
White 30.2 % 15.5 %
African American 44.3 % 25.3 %
Mexican American 29.7 % 19.2 %
Overall 48.3 % 29.2 %
White 46.4 % 28.5 %
African American 59.9 % 33.6 %

aHTN = mean DBP > 90mmHg, or mean SBP > 140mmHg, or currently taking medication for HTN; bLatino data not available for AR; cValderamma et al. MMWR 2013; dZohoori et al,. unpub.