UW News

September 25, 2008

UW pharmacy students help the Seahawks tackle hypertension

By Melinda Young
School of Pharmacy

Last year, when UW pharmacy students were called upon to help with a hypertension-awareness initiative at Seattle Seahawks games, the students were more than happy to heed that call.

More than 20 Pharm.D. candidates checked people’s blood pressure and offered insight on hypertension during Seahawks home games and at area Costcos throughout the fall.

And the pilot program was such a hit that the NFL is taking it national this year.

As of press time, six other NFL teams had joined the Seahawks to participate in the Tackle Hypertension project — the Chicago Bears, Green Bay Packers, Indianapolis Colts, New England Patriots, New York Jets and Pittsburgh Steelers.

This initiative initially got off the ground last summer after NFL hall of famer Joe Montana, then-spokesperson for Novartis Pharmaceutical Corp., gave a presentation to Seahawks’ staff about his own battle with hypertension and the importance of maintaining heart health. His message resonated.

“The NFL is looking for ways to keep their alumni healthy and to encourage the health and well-being of their fans and players,” said Sabrina Taylor Blackwell, associate director of regional account projects at Novartis and the project’s creator. “The noise level [for these kinds of programs] is heightening, and more and more teams are looking for ways to be involved.”

So, the Seahawks set up a booth at Touchdown City at Qwest Field Event Center, and UW pharmacy students and local health care practitioners staffed it during pre-game festivities. Hypertension programs also took place at area Costcos on home game weekends.

Overall, pharmacy students helped to screen the blood pressure of almost 1,900 people. They also helped sign up more than 840 people to receive information about hypertension and to answer general questions about health and wellness.

Hypertension, or high blood pressure, is a condition in which a person’s blood pushes too hard against the walls of the arteries. If left untreated, it can lead to multiple other health problems, some fatal.

“It’s not necessarily high blood pressure that’s the main issue,” said Taylor Blackwell. “It’s that it can be a precursor to other things — stroke, heart attack, obesity or noncompliance with [medications], to name a few.”

The American Heart Association estimates that one in three Americans have high blood pressure. Nearly one-third of them don’t realize it.

With such a high incidence of hypertension among the American populace, other NFL teams were enthusiastic to implement the Tackle Hypertension initiative at their football stadiums this season. The project’s goal is to encourage people to become active in spotting, monitoring and preventing the disease.

In Seattle, Novartis invited School of Pharmacy students back to the Seahawks program this year, said Taylor Blackwell, because they made such a good impression. So far, almost 40 students are signed up to help throughout this football season.

UW Pharm.D. candidates regularly participate in (and sometimes spearhead) these kinds of public- and community-health programs. Such efforts allow them to practice their clinical and patient-education skills, said Kim Moody, Pharm.D. candidate and outreach coordinator for one of the student associations.