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'Hearts and Minds' Promotes Wellness; African Americans Living with Mental Illness Have Higher Risk for Other Illnesses.

ARLINGTON, Va., March 18 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) has launched a new health education program to promote sound "mind and body" health practices among individuals who live with serious mental illness.


The "Hearts and Minds" initiative focuses on combating risk factors like high blood pressure, high cholesterol, smoking and obesity for major illnesses such as heart disease, cancer and diabetes.

The program has significant implications for African Americans living with mental illness, who face these risk factors as well as additional disparities in access to and quality of health care.  

"Wellness is everyone's concern," said NAMI Executive Director Mike Fitzpatrick. "But it is especially urgent for people living with serious mental illness, including African Americans."

The U.S. Department of Health & Human Services (HHS) Office of Minority Health reports that:

  • In 2006, African American men were 30% more likely to die from heart disease, as compared to non-Hispanic white men.
  • African American women are 1.7 times as likely as non-Hispanic white women to be obese.
  • African Americans were 1.5 times as likely as non-Hispanic whites to have high blood pressure.

One recent study has now confirmed the existence of a "reciprocal link" between depression and obesity. People living with serious mental illness such as major depression, bipolar disorder and schizophrenia live on average 25 years less than other Americans who die from other chronic illnesses.

The Hearts & Minds program consists of five key components:

  • A special interactive "Hearts & Minds" Web site including discussion groups
  • A facilitator's guide and tool kit for local community discussions
  • A DVD that can be downloaded or purchased through NAMI's online store
  • A booklet on health strategies and risks that also can be downloaded or purchased
  • Printed fact sheets on a broad range of topics

"Many kinds of risk factors contribute to health challenges for people with mental illnesses," said NAMI Medical Director Ken Duckworth, M.D. "Many are preventable or reversible."

"They include isolation, relatively low incomes, sedentary lifestyles, smoking as a form of self-medication and the side-effects of some medications for mental illness."

"There has been significant progress in treatment options for mental illness to support recovery, but for every individual, each option requires careful assessment of benefits and risks."

"Hearts and Minds will empower people to minimize and manage health risks to support wellness and recovery," Duckworth said.

"Hearts and Minds" is funded by OptumHealth and the Smoking Cessation Leadership Center at the University of California-San Francisco.

About NAMI

NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness) is the nation's largest grassroots mental health organization dedicated to improving the lives of individuals and families affected by mental illness. NAMI has over 1100 state and local affiliates that engage in research, education, support and advocacy. For more information see

SOURCE National Alliance on Mental Illness

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SOURCE National Alliance on Mental Illness
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