AHA president-elect to focus attention on health disparities

The Associated Press

JACKSON – As president-elect of the American Heart Association, Dr. Daniel Jones says he’ll focus on health disparities in addition to the national organization’s goal of reducing cardiovascular disease by 25 percent.

Jones, vice chancellor of health affairs at the University of Mississippi Medical Center, is the first Mississippian elected to the helm of AHA, which raises $500 million annually to fight cardiovascular disease.

Jones, whose one-year term begins in 2007, is from a state that leads the nation in obesity, diabetes and cardiovascular disease.

“My leadership is a privilege, but I hope we’ll use this opportunity to focus on how we can help make health better for everyone in this country, including the citizens of Mississippi because our health problems are so much more challenging than other places.

“If we can solve the problems here, then the nation can figure out how to solve the problems for the rest of the country.”

Jones, a native of Morton, addressed hundreds of his colleagues Monday at UMC, telling them that cardiovascular-related deaths nationwide have been greatly reduced in the last few decades. However, the decline has been slight for black men and black women in Mississippi.

He said there are varying opinions in the health community about the best way to address the health disparity.

“There are some issues in terms of communicating the message in a culturally sensitive way,” Jones said.

More research needed

He said there should be more money invested in research, but ultimately, it becomes a matter of making healthy decisions.

“I hope there will be some great science breakthroughs. I hope there’ll be a day when we have a pill or a shot that’s going to make us be vaccinated against obesity so we don’t have to think so much about lifestyle issues,” Jones said. “But until then, the biggest tool we have is personal choice.”

Dr. Ed Thompson, Mississippi’s former state health officer, said Mississippi should reap benefits having Jones at the helm of the AHA.

Thompson, who returned to UMC after working for the Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta, said the state has shown it is capable of overcoming long-standing health problems. He said Mississippi once led the nation in tuberculosis. By 2003, the state had dropped below the national average for the first time in 33 years.

“It’s so fortunate at this point in time that we have Dr. Jones at the American Heart Association in a position to help us tackle a couple of our worst problems,” Thompson said.