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4 mins read

Sudden Cardiac Arrest and the Black Athlete: A Crisis within a Crisis

The spotlight on sudden cardiac arrest (SCA) among Black athletes grew brighter with the heart-wrenching news of Damar Hamlin’s on-camera cardiac arrest and, more recently, the unfortunate Bronny James incident. These tragedies underscore the pressing need to address this devastating condition, claiming the lives of too many young, vibrant Black athletes.

What is Sudden Cardiac Arrest?

Sudden cardiac arrest (SCA) is a life-threatening condition in which the heart unexpectedly stops beating. This abrupt cessation deprives the body of vital oxygen, leading to loss of consciousness and, if not treated immediately, death.

Within the United States, thousands fall victim to SCA annually. Alarmingly, Black Americans face a higher prevalence compared to their white counterparts. The disparity becomes even more pronounced when observing Division I NCAA basketball players, where Black athletes face a heightened risk, as highlighted in a recent study assessing the incidence in collegiate athletes.

Causes of SCA in Athletes

The reasons behind SCAs in young competitive athletes primarily encompass structural and electrical anomalies of the heart. Enlargement of the heart muscle not related to chronic diseases such as high blood pressure (hypertrophic cardiomyopathy), an anomalous origin of the arteries that supply blood to the heart, coronary arteries, and heart muscle inflammation (myocarditis) are among the top causes. These conditions often go unnoticed because they might not manifest significant symptoms until too late.

The Racial Disparity

The disparities in the survival rates of Black vs. white individuals after an out-of-hospital SCA are stark. Black individuals, in many instances, are less likely to receive bystander-initiated essential life support (BLS) than white individuals. This gap in immediate post-arrest care significantly impacts survival rates.

A Way Forward

Addressing this multifaceted problem requires a comprehensive strategy. First, an intensified family medical history screening can be crucial. Given the higher prevalence of certain inherited cardiac conditions within Black communities, selective genetic screening can unearth hidden dangers.

Incorporating routine electrocardiograms (ECG) and echocardiograms into pre-athletic testing can make a significant difference. These tests, in conjunction with standard history and physicals, can spot potential heart abnormalities early.

Furthermore, improving outcomes after an out-of-hospital SCA necessitates community-level interventions. Increased BLS education can empower bystanders to act swiftly and effectively during emergencies. Moreover, making automated external defibrillators (AEDs) more accessible, especially in public parks within communities of color, can be a life-saving initiative.

The Role of Wearable Technology

sudden cardiac arrest

In today’s age of technology, ECG-based wearable devices may hold the key to proactive cardiac health management. These gadgets can continuously monitor heart rhythms, potentially identifying life-threatening heart conditions before progressing to critical stages.

The crises of SCA among Black athletes, compounded by racial disparities in post-arrest care, necessitate urgent attention. Through intensified screening, widespread BLS education, increased accessibility to AEDs, and leveraging wearable technology, we can take definitive steps towards safeguarding the lives of our young Black athletes. After all, their heartbeats are the rhythm of our future, and we must do everything possible to ensure they keep beating strong.

Contributed by Dr. Matthew Jones MD, FACC, FSCAI 

sudden cardiac arrest
Dr. Matthew Jones MD, FACC, FSCAI  – CEO of Everbeat
Everbeat is a cutting-edge wearable smart ring technology platform designed to monitor and assess cardiovascular health continuously. The Everbeat platform offers remote patient monitoring, virtual event-driven cardiology consults, and Artificial Intelligence (AI)-driven ECG analysis, making it an ideal solution for individuals with or at risk for cardiac conditions.

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3 mins read

HealthTech Platform Free From Market Secures $2.1 Million for Expansion

Free From Market (FFM), a digital platform that helps lower-income Americans with chronic health conditions access personalized diet-specific foods and support, has closed a seed investment round of $2.1 million.

The funding will be used to improve the platform’s technology and expand the service to provide affordable, accessible solutions for improving health outcomes. The funding round was led by Bluestein Ventures and supported by Acumen America, Beta Boom, KCRise Fund, 1st Course Capital, AssetBlue Ventures and Google for Startups Black Founders Fund.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), one in three Americans have a chronic health condition that can be managed through food. However, many Americans do not have access to the necessary resources and support.

Free From Market addresses this issue by offering bulk ordering for organizations and direct-to-door access for individuals to purchase diet-specific meals, produce and grocery items, along with telenutrition support. The platform also measures health outcomes for users with chronic conditions where food is the standard of care.

Free From Market
Emily Brown, Co-Founder and CEO of Free From Market

Emily Brown, Free From Market’s Co-Founder and CEO, is a recognized thought leader in the “food is medicine” space, serving on the NIAID National Advisory Council and the Children’s Hospital Association’s Next Generation of Quality Steering Committee. She is also a participant in the White House Conference on Hunger, Nutrition, and Health. Brown and co-founder Elise Bates created FFM with a mission to help all Americans manage their health through food, regardless of income or location.

FFM’s leadership team, which includes Chief Operating Officer Mark Jaffe, has extensive backgrounds in community health, food distribution, healthcare, technology, and nutrition. “Food has a powerful ability to heal our bodies, and we’re thrilled to support FFM as they build the future in the ‘food is medicine’ space,” said Andrew Bluestein, Managing Partner of Bluestein Ventures. Ed Frindt, Partner at KCRise, added, “This is an innovative model, and this is the type of disruptive tech company that will create real change in public health.”

“One in three Americans has a condition where food is part of the standard of care, yet many Americans do not have access to food and resources needed to treat it,” said Brown. “Our curated food is free from ingredients an individual does not want, and full of all the nutrients they need to manage a healthy life. This funding round is merely one milestone towards our goal to make a lasting impact to improve healthcare in this country and center health equity.”

by Tony O. Lawson

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1 min read

Physician-Entrepreneur Founded Company Has Raised $190M To Combat Health Inequity

Zing Health is a tech-enabled health insurance company that was founded in 2019 by two African American physician entrepreneurs, Eric E. Whitaker, MD, MPH, and Kenneth Alleyne, MD.

The Chicago-based company’s mission is to provide managed care Medicare Advantage plans that address social determinants of health to reduce healthcare disparities among historically underserved populations.

Dr. Eric E. Whitaker has more than 30 years of experience working in both the public and private sectors to create cutting-edge healthcare solutions for medically underserved populations.

He is also one of the first Black entrepreneurs to raise over $180 million in Chicago.

In this interview, Dr. Whitaker shares:

  • His thoughts on health equity and addressing racial disparities in healthcare
  • Almost going out of business during the height of the pandemic
  • His experience raising $190 million dollars
  • Advice for other entrepreneurs running a healthcare business
  • The most pressing health issue in the Black community

-Tony O. Lawson