Kentucky Heart Month, Controlling High Blood Pressure, and the CARE SMPB Program

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(Note: This guest blog post was written by Natalie Littlefield, Samantha Albuquerque, and David Davis from the Kentucky Heart Disease and Stroke Prevention Program)

February is Kentucky Heart Month, a time when all Kentuckians are urged to focus on their cardiovascular health. The Kentucky Heart Disease and Stroke Prevention (KHDSP) Program, within the Kentucky Department for Public Health, is funded through a federal grant from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). KHDSP works in partnership with the Kentucky Heart Disease and Stroke Prevention Task Force to address strategies and transform our state’s cardiovascular health approaches and practices. 

This February, KHDSP is asking Kentuckians to incorporate regular physical activity in their daily routine, make heart-healthy nutritional choices, stop using tobacco products and talk to their health care provider about ways to control high blood pressure and cholesterol. KHDSP has created a specific program to address high blood pressure.

Hypertension, or high blood pressure, is a major risk factor for heart disease, stroke, chronic kidney disease, and dementia.1 Heart disease and stroke are the first and fifth leading causes of death in Kentucky respectively2 and approximately 38% of adults in Kentucky have hypertension.3 The KHDSP Program at the Kentucky Department for Public Health (KDPH) has created a program that combines self-measured blood pressure monitoring (SMBP) and simple hypertension education via the Cardiovascular Assessment, Risk-Reduction and Education (CARE) Collaborative. The program aims to increase participants’ engagement in their health and work towards improving their blood pressure to address the high burden of hypertension in Kentucky patients.

What is SMBP?

Self-measured blood pressure monitoring (SMBP) is defined as the regular measurement of blood pressure by the patient outside the clinical setting, either at home or elsewhere.4 It is sometimes known as “home blood pressure monitoring.”4 Scientific evidence has shown that SMBP plus additional support was more effective than usual care in lowering blood pressure among patients with hypertension.4 Additional support includes regular one-on-one counseling, Web-based or telephonic support tools and educational classes.4 Through regular out-of-office blood pressure measurements, participants are able to be a part of their treatment and care, providing reliable measurements back to their provider. Participants are trained, through the SMBP program, to obtain accurate measurements that are reliable for treatment and maintenance decisions.

What is the CARE Collaborative?

The CARE Collaborative is a free blood pressure education awareness program for Kentucky men and women over the age of 18 years. CARE uses three color zones (green, yellow, and red) to indicate if the participant’s blood pressure is normal, elevated, or high, respectively. Individuals document their blood pressure and choose lifestyle modification goals to lower their cardiovascular disease risk.


CARE SMBP combines SMBP with CARE Collaborative education to offer participants tools and resources to improve their blood pressure and overall health. CARE SMBP can be used in any setting where a blood pressure is taken or can be taken. The CARE Collaborative is in use at community clinics, Federally Qualified Health Centers (FQHCs), health care systems, home visiting programs, and local health departments across the state. The program features: a free blood pressure monitor, a trained CARE SMBP coach, and patient centered education and resources.


CARE SMBP coaches are healthcare providers or lay health professionals trained by the Heart Disease and Stroke Prevention Program to engage participants about their blood pressure. During the first CARE SMBP participant encounter, the participant is given a blood pressure monitor and instructed on how to properly use the device. The participant then uses the teach back method to demonstrate understanding of proper use and cuff positioning to accurately capture their blood pressure. Next, the participant receives education on the CARE Collaborative. After the participant’s blood pressure is measured, they are asked to identify which blood pressure zone they fall in: normal (green), elevated (yellow), or high (red). This identification and ownership of their blood pressure zone is crucial for participants to become engaged in their health and begin healthy behaviors and/or lifestyle modifications to reduce their blood pressure. The CARE SMBP coach then works with the participant to find one simple step they can take to reduce their blood pressure. Some examples of modifiable behaviors that a participant can focus on include taking their medication as directed, healthy eating, reducing tobacco use, increasing physical activity, reducing blood sugar, reducing cholesterol, and weight loss. At subsequent CARE SMBP encounters, the coach discusses any blood pressure changes since the previous visit and works with the participant to determine if additional healthy behaviors or lifestyle modifications can be made. One of the main goals of the program is for participants to share their self-measured blood pressure readings with their healthcare providers, resulting in better informed clinical decision making relative to hypertension.

CARE SMBP pilot sites have shown reductions in participants’ systolic and diastolic blood pressure. Patients enrolled in CARE SMBP at a clinical partner site demonstrated a mean reduction of 12 mm Hg in systolic blood pressure and 6 mm Hg in diastolic blood pressure. A meta-analysis on hypertension revealed that every 10 mm Hg reduction in systolic blood pressure lowers the risk of major cardiovascular disease events by 20%, coronary heart disease by 17%, stroke by 27%, heart failure by 28%, and death from all causes by 13%.5 Patient engagement and education is a crucial part of the CARE SMBP program. We measure success in this area by a participants’ ability to correctly identify their blood pressure zone according to colors. At the same CARE SMBP site, 90% of participants were able to identify their blood pressure zone correctly and 80% made improvements in their blood pressure. These findings show that CARE SMBP program is helping participants make the connection between their blood pressure number and the risk category they fall in.

These positive outcomes show the CARE SMBP is making a difference for participants with high blood pressure in Kentucky. Although there is still much work to be done to reduce the burden of hypertension, we feel confident that the CARE SMBP program provides a way to minimize hypertension burden and improve heart health of Kentuckians. 

Anyone interested in learning more about the CARE SMBP program is invited to contact the Kentucky Heart Disease and Stroke Prevention Program at or at 502.564.7996. 


1. Fuchs, F.D. & Whelton, P.K. (2020).High Blood Pressure and Cardiovascular Disease

Hypertension 75 (2), 285-292.

Accessed at on Nov 29, 2021.

2. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Health Statistics. Underlying Cause of Death 1999-2019 on CDC WONDER Online Database released in 2020. 2019. Accessed at;jsessionid=E76D448C9E254A592E53234C2E56

3. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, Division of Population Health. BRFSS Prevalence & Trends Data. 2019. Accessed at

4. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Self-Measured Blood Pressure Monitoring: Action Steps for Public Health Practitioners. Atlanta, GA: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, US Dept of Health and Human Services; 2013. Accessed at

5. Ettehad, D., Emdin, C.A., Kiran, A., Anderson, S.G., Callendar, T., Emberson, J. et. al. (2016). Blood pressure lowering for prevention of cardiovascular disease and death: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Lancet, 387 (10022), 957-967.Accessed at

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