CHAPEL HILL -- Too few people with heart problems -- especially women and minorities -- use outpatient cardiac rehabilitation programs across the state, according to a new University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill study. Medicare would pay for participation in many cases, but patients often do not know it.
"In 1995, heart disease was responsible for 31 percent of deaths in North Carolina, and we had the eighth highest death rate in the country from that cause," said Dr. Kelly R. Evenson, postdoctoral fellow in epidemiology at the UNC-CH School of Public Health. "Our survey of outpatient cardiac rehabilitation programs operating in North Carolina in 1998 found that fewer than 5,000 patients were using the services that returned the questionnaires."
In fiscal 1995-96, 114,361 people were hospitalized in North Carolina for ischemic heart disease, another 45,082 for congestive heart failure and another 77,721 for other cardiovascular problems, Evenson said. Many patients who survive might benefit from outpatient cardiac rehabilitation, which helps them adopt healthier lifestyles.
"From 1991 to 1995, nearly half of all coronary heart disease deaths in North Carolina occurred in women, but we found that cardiac rehabilitation use by women was lower than that by men," she said. "Even more problematic is the low rate of participation by minorities even though coronary death rates are higher for African-Americans than for whites."
A report on the research appears in the March-April issue of the North Carolina Medical Journal, which has just been published. Along with Evenson, Dr. Wayne D. Rosamond, associate professor of epidemiology, wrote the report.
Their study involved sending detailed five-page questionnaires to directors of the 72 outpatient cardiac rehabilitation programs in North Carolina in 1998. Directors of 61 eventually returned the surveys for an 85 percent response rate, Evenson said. They were asked to describe se
Contact: David Williamson
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill