Be There San Diego Promotes Heart Health

NEWS // June 1, 2017

Be There San Diego Receives Award for Promoting Heart Health in African American Community

The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation bestowed its 2017 Health Equity Award, in conjunction with the National Civic League, to Elizabeth Bustos and the Reverend Gerald W. Brown.  Ms. Bustos is Director of Community Engagement for Be There San Diego and project director of the Southeastern San Diego Cardiac Disparities Project. Reverend Brown is the executive director of the United African American Ministerial Action Council.

The award honors individuals who have successfully implemented systemic change to improve the health outcomes of those most affected by health disparities. It was presented in a ceremony on June 16 in Denver during the National Civic League’s annual meeting.

“Out of an incredible list of applicants your story and work stood out,” wrote Aaron Levy, the organization’s Program Director for Sustainability and Civic Engagement, in announcing the award. “We are thrilled to be able to recognize your great work and share your story with others.”

Ms. Bustos and Reverend Brown work closely with African American faith leaders to reduce the risk factors for cardiovascular disease in Southeastern San Diego, which has the highest rates of heart attacks and strokes in the county.

To date, 19 faith-based organizations are participating in the project, which began in 2015. Each has developed a “Heart-Health Plan” that promotes good nutrition, increased physical activity and regular monitoring of blood pressure among its congregations. Nearly 3,000 African Americans are getting their blood pressure checked weekly as a result of this project.

Individuals whose readings are outside of the normal range are referred to their doctors. Those who do not have one are given a list of health providers in their community and are assisted in making connections.

The work does not stop there, however.

The project creates opportunities for the faith-based leaders to come together with clinicians, particularly physicians, to talk candidly about treating African American patients. These unique exchanges provide valuable insights that can help everyone involved in the process.

“We believe that the project is transforming the individuals and organizations it’s touching. We believe this transformation will lead to improved health outcomes, help achieve health equity and deliver social justice to a community historically lacking it,” read the nomination letter for the award. “The drivers of that transformation are Elizabeth Bustos and Reverend Brown. The heart of this project is the trust they have built in the community -- and its power to heal and build.”

The project is funded by a Racial and Ethnic Approaches to Community Health (REACH) grant from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The project is organized by  Be There San Diego, a regional healthcare collaborative working to eliminate heart attacks and strokes in San Diego County.

The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation is the world’s tenth largest charitable foundation, with an endowment of $9.7 billion.

Contact Elizabeth Bustos, Director of Community Engagement or Be There San Dieg at for more information.