Healthy Churches 2020: Clinical Trials And Why the Church Matters

The Association of Black Cardiologists (ABC) and Boston Scientific Corporation (BSC) raise awareness about the role the church can take to increase diversity in clinical trials and help eliminate disparities in care among its African American congregation.

New York, NY —The Association of Black Cardiologists (ABC) and Boston Scientific Corporation (BSC) presented to an enthusiastic crowd of more than 400 people at the Healthy Churches 2020 National Conference held in Hilton Head, SC last month. This marked the first collaborative effort for ABC and Boston Scientific as diamond sponsors of this annual event.

Paul Underwood, MD, FACC from BSC’s Close the Gap health equity initiative stated: “Health care providers face a difficult challenge to find the data needed to care for America’s increasingly diverse population. Broad clinical trial inclusion is essential to provide an adequate evidence base from which new therapies may be assessed. Faith-based networks possess the trust needed to educate and engage communities to overcome barriers to clinical trial  participation.”

As part of the opening main stage plenary session on Wednesday, November 15, the ABC and BSC hosted “Conversations from the Heart: Clinical Trials, Vascular Disease and Access to Care.”  ABC members Andrea L. Phillips, MD,  Phillips Medical Services, PLLC; Aaron Horne, Jr., MD, MBA, MHS, (cardiology), with the Cardiac & Vascular Interventional Group; and Phillip B. Duncan, M.D., F.A.C.C., from Cardiac Health Management Network, PC, spoke about increasing diversity in clinical trials, peripheral vascular disease, and the importance of ensuring access to quality care is available to all people.

Additionally, a more intimate workshop on clinical trials was held on Thursday, November 16 during the morning session. LaPrincess Brewer, MD MPH FACC from Mayo Clinic moderated the lively session that included breakout discussions led by Rev. Michael O. Minor, EdD, H.O.P.E. Health and Human Services Partnership, National Baptist Convention; Martin Mendoza, PhD from the Food and Drug Administration and Dr. Phillips served as facilitators for the breakout sessions. The breakout discussions focussed on how to address the longstanding underrepresentation of racial and ethnic minorities in clinical trials, how to overcome objections to clinical trial participation and how to frame the clinical trial message within a spiritual context.  

The 2017 Healthy Churches 2020 National Conference, with the theme, “Faith and Public Health:  Leading Together to Find Solutions!,” drew a larger crowd during the November 14 – 17 event than in previous years. The panel members spoke to a full house of faith leaders, leading medical experts, health directors, community wellness advocates, members of congregational health ministries and public health professionals. The Conference’s goal to eliminate health disparities affecting African-Americans aligns with the ABC’s mission and the goals of BSC’s Close the Gap initiative.

As Dr. Underwood noted, “The ABC has long believed that the church plays a vital role in the lives of the African American community and understands that a joint effort between faith leaders, public health professionals and community health advocates can have a significant and positive impact on health among people of color.”

Since 1978, ABC has partnered with local churches in its efforts to reduce incidences of cardiovascular disease and eliminate the disparity in health care among people of color.  Its signature “Spirit of the Heart” community program, held in cities such as Atlanta, Dallas, Gary, Jackson, Philadelphia, Macon, Memphis, Richmond and San Diego, often brings together local businesses along with faith, legislative and community leaders for a three-day education and health screening event. The program is developed to help everyone understand heart disease is preventable, and heart healthy practices are important for longevity.

Similarly, Healthy Churches 2020 aimed to identify ways to address complex chronic health issues, such as diabetes, cancer and heart disease, that disproportionately affect African Americans. The three-and-half-day gathering tapped into a wealth of best practices and success stories in order to increase the skills and knowledge of those responsible for leading congregational and community health ministries and allowed the ABC to continue a national discourse with the faith community it initiated almost four decades ago.

According to Dr. Brewer, “Faith-based public health conferences, such as the Healthy Churches 2020 National Conference play a critical role in providing clergy and health ministry leaders with training and education on how to most effectively promote health and wellness within their respective congregations. They also emphasize the necessity of self-care and role-modeling of healthy lifestyle practices; as these individuals are at the forefront of health promotion in their faith communities to eradicate health disparities.”

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About the Association of Black Cardiologists (ABC)

The Association of Black Cardiologists, founded in 1974, has taken a leadership role in promoting the prevention and treatment of cardiovascular disease including stroke in African Americans and other minorities. Its mission is to achieve health equity through the elimination of disparities in all people of color. ABC represents a diverse international membership of 1,700 health professionals, community lay members, corporate and institutional members dedicated to this cause.

About Boston Scientific Corporation (BSC)

Boston Scientific transforms lives through innovative medical solutions that improve the health of patients around the world. As a global medical technology leader for more than 35 years, BSC advances science for life by providing a broad range of high performance solutions that address unmet patient needs and reduce the cost of healthcare. For more information, visit and connect on Twitter and Facebook.

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