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With an eye toward providing better health care for underserved populations, the Association of Black Cardiologists in conjunction with the Morehouse School of Medicine and the American Heart Association is creating a cardiovascular disease registry for African Americans.

The database will import data directly from electronic health records, enabling researchers to analyze trends and develop more effective, targeted treatments for African-American patients.

“A comprehensive registry dedicated to addressing healthcare disparities among African American patients is long overdue,” Dr. Barbara Hutchinson, current president of the Association of Black Cardiologists, said in a statement.

“This is a step forward in engaging African Americans in clinical studies,” she added. “This registry will highlight issues essential to achieving health equity and reducing the substantial gap in morbidity and mortality that currently exists for our patient population.”

Heart disease is the leading cause of death among African Americans, accounting for 23.8 percent of Black deaths in 2008, and among most ethnic groups in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Approximately one in every four deaths in the U.S. annually (610,000 people) is attributable to heart disease.

Black cardiologists say they hope the new registry will be a new tool in their arsenal to combat the deadly disease within the Black community.

“The registry will address critical gaps in the quality of healthcare for African Americans and other underserved patients,” particularly in patient-centered outcomes research, said Dr. Elizabeth Ofili, principal investigator for the registry and senior associate dean of clinical and translational research at Morehouse, an Atlanta-based HBCU.