While studying for her PhD several years ago, Shiriki Kumanyika, PhD, MPH, a Professor in the Department of Biostatistics and Epidemiology at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine, the associate dean for health promotion and disease prevention at Penn, admits she was captivated by the idea that everyday behaviours, such as eating salt or fruits and vegetables, could make a difference in major health problems such as high blood pressure and heart disease.

She comments, “Cardiovascular disease seemed so preventable if we could only change the way people eat, but making these changes turns out to be quite a challenge.” Kumanyika said the importance of eating healthy and being physically active became even clearer to her when she began to study obesity and learned how much obesity relates to heart disease and affects, especially, women of colour. “In my research work, I’m constantly looking for ways to reduce health disparities affecting ethnic minority and socially disadvantaged communities,” she adds.

In addition to Kumanyika’s significant research work in the prevention of cardiovascular disease, she also points to her clinical colleagues at Penn, “They are the ones in the trenches, day after day, counselling patient after patient on how to prevent or live with this devastating disease. They face the constant challenge of educating their patients about the real consequences of how heart disease silently kills the most women in this country every year.”

To kick off American Heart Month, Kumanyika received the 2007 Red Dress Award from Woman’s Day, the first magazine to adopt heart disease prevention in women as its cause. Other 2007 award winners include: Sharonne Hayes, MD, Mayo Clinic Women’s Heart Clinic and Susan Bennett, MD, George Washington University Cardiovascular Center.

MEDICA.de; Source: University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine