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Inspiring Journeys: Empowering Black Adults to Reduce Their Risk for Heart Disease and Stroke

While 1 in 3 Americans die from cardiovascular disease, black adults are more likely to experience heart health challenges and die than any other community.


Not only is February American Heart Month and Black History Month, it also marks 3 years in the global COVID-19 pandemic. A pandemic that has shined a light on health inequities that place Black Americans at higher risk of COVID-19 and other major health issues, including heart disease.



The facts About Heart Health in the Black Community:

  • Rates of premature heart disease are 87% higher for Black adults than white adults[1]
  • 48% of Black women and 46% of Black men are diagnosed with some form of cardiovascular disease each year[2]
  • Black adults are more likely to experience risk factors for heart disease, such as hypertension, diabetes, obesity, and high cholesterol[3] 
  • People living in Black neighborhoods (more than 75% Black residents) are less likely to survive CVD events than people living in non-Black neighborhoods[4]



Coinciding with American Heart Month and Black History Month, CDC Foundation’s Million Hearts campaign created the “Live to the Beat” campaign, as an opportunity to speak directly to Black adults about the small steps taken today that can have big impact on their heart health tomorrow.



Dr. Lisa Waddell, MD, and chief medical officer for the CDC Foundation along with Tara Robinson, founder and CEO of the Black Heart Association joined me to discuss the impact of cardiovascular disease in the Black community, and resources available to reduce risk of heart attack and stroke. After suffering three heart attacks over the course of one week, with the last nearly claiming her life, Tara later realized that the Black community was silently losing the fight against heart disease and vowed to fight back.


Learn more about the initiative at:  LiveToTheBeat.org.



About Our Guests:


Lisa Waddell, MD, MPH

Chief Medical Officer

Dr. Lisa Waddell, MPH, is the chief medical officer (CMO) for the CDC Foundation. This is a new role for the CDC Foundation and was created to aid in the Foundation’s COVID-19 emergency response.


Dr. Waddell is a preventive medicine and public health physician with over 30 years of local, state and national public health leadership experience. She has a passion for public health and is committed to promoting and protecting the health of populations. She has a particular interest in addressing the needs of vulnerable populations, needs of moms and babies, and those with disparate health outcomes.


As CMO, Dr. Waddell provided leadership for the development of the COVID-19 Corps Nationwide Surge Staffing initiative, an initiative that includes directing a team of public health professionals who are providing support to health departments across the nation as part of the COVID-19 response. In addition, she supports the CDC Foundation’s capacity building initiative to support Community Based Organizations. Dr. Waddell serves on the Foundation’s executive team and represents the Foundation at national events.


She joined the CDC Foundation from the March of Dimes, where she served as deputy chief medical and health officer and the senior vice president for Maternal and Child Health Impact nationwide. Prior to the March of Dimes, Dr. Waddell worked with the Association of State and Territorial Health Officials (ASTHO) as chief of community health and prevention. Before this role, she served as deputy commissioner for Health Services for the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control, the state’s public health agency. Dr. Waddell also served as deputy public health director/medical director in Richmond, Virginia.


She is a member of several professional organizations including the American College of Preventive Medicine (ACPM), the American Public Health Association (APHA), the National Medical Association and the South Carolina Public Health Association.


Dr. Waddell received her Doctor of Medicine from the Medical College of Virginia and a bachelor’s in biology from the University of Virginia. She completed her residency in preventive medicine/public health from the Medical College of Virginia, and she received her master’s in public health from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. She is a graduate of the National Public Health Leadership Institute.




Tara Robinson

Founder and CEO, Black Heart Association

After suffering three heart attacks over the course of one week, with the last nearly claiming her life, Tara Robinson discovered that she was in a fight for her life. She would later realize that the black community was silently losing that same fight against heart disease, so she decided to fight back.


Together with her husband, The Black Heart Association (BHA), was created through their survivor story, to fight for the thousands of minority men, women and children, and their loved ones, who will experience the negative impact of heart disease or stroke each year.


Tara believes there’s no one better to take up the mantle of reaching and awakening the hearts of the black community as it pertains to defeating heart disease and stroke than a survivor. As the CEO and Founder, Tara Robison strives to lead an organization that will be the conduit between the black community and heart health.




[1] Ritchey, M. D., Wall, H. K., George, M. G., & Wright, J. S. (2020). US trends in premature heart disease mortality over the past 50 years: Where do we go from here?. Trends in cardiovascular medicine, 30(6), 364–374. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.tcm.2019.09.005
[2] Williams, J. S., Walker, R. J., & Egede, L. E. (2016). Achieving Equity in an Evolving Healthcare System: Opportunities and Challenges. The American journal of the medical sciences, 351(1), 33–43. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.amjms.2015.10.012
[3] Carnethon MR, et al. Cardiovascular health in African Americans: a scientific statement from the American Heart Association. Circulation. 2017;136:e393–e423. doi: 10.1161/CIR.0000000000000534.
[4] Starks, M. A., et al & Resuscitation Outcomes Consortium (ROC) (2017). Association of Neighborhood Demographics With Out-of-Hospital Cardiac Arrest Treatment and Outcomes: Where You Live May Matter. JAMA cardiology, 2(10), 1110–1118. https://doi.org/10.1001/jamacardio.2017.2671



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