Too Few to Count: Perceptions of Heart Health in Utah African Americans

Saturday, 28 October 2017

Valerie J. Flattes, MS
College of Nursing, University of Utah, Salt Lake City, UT, USA


African Americans have higher morbidity and mortality from diseases that can affect the heart compared to White non-Hispanic Americans. This study examined perceptions of heart health among African Americans over age 40 living in Utah. African Americans living in less diverse areas where they are “super minorities” (<5% of the population) are overlooked in health research.


The African American population in Utah is less than 2% of the overall state population. There is minimal evidence regarding how African Americans living in similar areas perceive heart health, or receive information concerning heart health.

Supporting literature

Research has focused on African Americans residing largely in urban areas with little attention focused on African Americans residing in less diverse areas. Other studies have shown lack of general knowledge of the definition of heart health.

Exploratory qualitative methods informed by grounded theory and an ethnographic approach were used to generate and analyze data. Semi-structured interviews were conducted with African Americans aged 40 and older (N=20) in the Salt Lake City, Utah area. Participants discussed their definition and perception of heart health, and sources that shaped or influenced these perceptions. Interviews and field notes were transcribed, coded, then categories and themes were developed and analyzed. NVivo 11 software was used for inductive and iterative data coding. 
Participants’ definition of heart health was related to concrete concepts like diet, exercise, and deaths of family members. Noted was a perception of sparse messaging about heart health for African Americans in Utah, especially related to hypertension or diabetes. Coding yielded the following categories: heart health, living in Salt Lake City, and health information. Themes were developed after further review and analysis is ongoing.

Conclusions/Implications for APN practice
Advocacy for improved patient centered care needs to continue, especially with minority groups. The data gathered in this study can be used to develop an intervention that includes heart health education for African Americans to improve longevity and optimal health as they age.