Washington, DC, September 23, 2005 – The Lupus Research Institute (LRI) National Coalition joined the Association of Black Cardiologists, Inc. (ABC) in educating attendees at the 35th Congressional Black Caucus Annual Legislative Conference about a serious health risk to women of color: heart disease in those with the chronic autoimmune disease, lupus.
A multidisciplinary team of specialists presented at the forum, Heart Disease & Lupus: What Women of Color Need to Know, on September 23 at 4:00 pm at the Washington D.C. Convention Center.
"It's high time that the national spotlight turn on this twin threat that cripples the lives of so many African American women," said LRI President Margaret G. Dowd. "The statistics frame a sober story: nine out of 10 of the 1.5 million Americans with lupus are women. In addition, the disease is three times more common in black women than in white women."
The specialists discussed why heart disease and stroke threaten the lives of more than a third of women with lupus, as well as what the prospects are for greater understanding, awareness, and treatment options for these potentially fatal health complications.
Even without lupus, African American women suffer disproportionately high death rates from heart disease and stroke. A woman with lupus is as much as 50 times more likely than other women her age to have angina (chest pain) or a heart attack.
On the bright side, researchers are beginning to understand some of the factors that lead to lupus-related heart disease. And government and advocacy groups are finally making headway in developing education and prevention programs.
According to Rosalyn Scott, MD, consulting medical director of the ABC, "The support of congressional leaders and collaboration of organizations such as the ABC and LRI is imperative. This support enables us to better understand and articulate the correlation of these two diseases and how education, early detection and treatment are vital in improving the quality of life for women of color."
Sponsors of the special Heart Disease & Lupus forum at the CBC annual conference, which typically draws more than 30,000 attendees, were Congressman Edolphus "Ed" Towns (D-NY) and Congresswoman Gwen Moore (D-WI). By co-sponsoring the forum, the nonprofit organization ABC fulfills part of its mission to eliminate disparities related to cardiovascular disease in people of color. Founded in 1974 and with an international membership of nearly 600 health care professionals, the ABC engages in numerous public and private partnerships that broaden its impact in communities across the nation.
The forum's other co-sponsor—the Lupus Research Institute—was established in 2000 by patients, their families, and top scientists out of a sense of urgency to attack and defeat lupus. An incubator of new ideas and a champion of innovative science, the LRI has made cardiovascular disease in lupus a major priority, funding more than $2 million in promising research studies.
The LRI's National Coalition, consisting of state and local lupus organizations from major urban centers (New York, Chicago, Los Angeles) as well as regional and statewide lupus organizations from such diverse parts of the country as California, Colorado, Delaware, Illinois, Indiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, New Hampshire, New York, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia, and West Virginia, collaborates on lupus awareness and advocacy initiatives. The Coalition has taken a leadership role in organizing educational forums on racial disparities in lupus, and in promoting awareness of the disease among Hispanics through a national Spanish PSA campaign.
Specialists in lupus and heart disease at the event were:
- Gregory Dennis, MD
Director, Clinical Care and Training
National Institute of Arthritis & Musculoskeletal Diseases/NIH
- Patricia Davidson, MD, FACP
Cardiologist, Washington, DC
Member, Association of Black Cardiologists, Inc.
- Rosalyn Scott, MD, MSHA
Associate Professor of Surgery, Division of Cardiothoracic Surgery
Charles R. Drew University of Medicine & Science, Los Angeles
Consulting Medical Director, Epidemiology Center & Center for Women's Health,
Association of Black Cardiologists, Inc.
- Doris Jackson, RN
Lupus Patient/Active Member, Lupus Mid-Atlantic
- Lisa Begg, PhD, RN
Director of Research Programs Office of Research on Women's Health, National Institutes of Health
- Frances Ashe-Goins, RN, MPH
Deputy Director and Director, Division of Policy and Program Development, Office on Women's Health
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
- Margaret G. Dowd, President, Lupus Research Institute
The Forum was supported by unrestricted educational grants from Aspreva Phamaceuticals, Human Genome Sciences and LaJolla Pharmaceutical Company.