Date of Conferral



Doctor of Public Health (DrPH)


Public Health


Ji Shen


Heart disease is the leading cause of death among African Americans. Despite advances in treatment modalities, based on better understanding of the disease's pathology and access to health care, African Americans continue to die from heart disease at rates significantly higher than other races. The available literature on cardiovascular disease among African Americans does not adequately explore how social support affects heart health in this group. The purpose of this study was to examine the effects of social support on cardiac recurrence among African American adults. Cohen's ISEL support system variables: tangible, appraisal, belonging, and self-esteem; and five demographic variables: age, marital status, educational level, household income, and gender provided the conceptual/methodological base for data collection and analysis. The sample consisted of 83 African American men and women ages 22 to 84 that had experienced at least one cardiac event. Chi-square analysis showed a positive correlation between marital status and cardiac recurrence. Results suggest that living alone may increase an individual's chances of having a second cardiac event. Social change implications include (a) identification of essential social support elements and tailored treatment plans for heart patient and caregiver in order to promote better heart health outcomes for African Americans living with someone or alone; and (b) policy change that fosters effective prevention and treatment.

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