On October 30, WomenHeart hosted a briefing on Capitol Hill to raise awareness of Peripheral Artery Disease (PAD) and its impact on women and African Americans. Representative Donald Payne, Jr. (D-NJ) attended the briefing and spoke with passion about the need to address this health injustice. WomenHeart Champion Pamela Parker shared her story of living with PAD, including the shock of being diagnosed with the disease and needing to have surgery right away to treat blockages in her legs.
While not uncommon, PAD is often under-recognized and under-treated in women, who are more likely to present with the disease 10-20 years later than men. For many women, the journey to a PAD diagnosis and treatment may involve various doctors, lack of information and dealing with additional health concerns at the same time. Prevalence of PAD is also high among African Americans, who are more likely to experience leg amputations than patients from other racial and ethnic groups.
The speakers from our partner organizations, including Dr. Amy Pollak representing the American Heart Association, Dr. Aaron Kithcart of the American College of Cardiology and Dr. Lee Kirksey on behalf of the Association of Black Cardiologists, presented information about what PAD is, the need for increased awareness and screening, and disparities in outcomes for African Americans. They presented opportunities for policymakers to address barriers that lead to low rates of screening in at-risk populations, under-diagnosis, and poor outcomes for communities who lack access to high quality health care specialized in treating a vascular condition like PAD.
Earlier this year, Representatives Payne and Gus Bilirakis (R-FL) started the Congressional PAD Caucus to raise awareness of PAD and to promote policies to improve research, education and treatment of PAD, with the goal of preventing non-traumatic amputations. Left untreated, PAD can have serious health consequences, leading to heart attack, stroke or leg amputation.
Our call to action was for all members of Congress to join the PAD Caucus and work together to address this problem. Now you can join in the effort. Click here to write to your Member of Congress and encourage them to join the PAD Caucus.