Elizabeth Abbs, MDc


Nominated From: University of Washington

Research Site: Peru

Research Area: Cardiovascular Disease, Health Interventions

Primary Mentor: Dr. Joseph Zunt

Research Project

Mitigate obesity and hypertension leading to cardiovascular morbidity and mortality in Lomas de Zapallal, Peru

Since 2007, the University of Washington and Universidad Nacional Mayor de San Marcos have collaborated on projects to assess and improve health in residents of the Lomas de Zapallal district in Northern Lima, Peru. Recently, Dr. Zunt and colleagues reported that hypertension was present in 15% of community members – the majority of whom were unaware of this condition. In addition, obesity and overweight status was common (53%), with abdominal obesity more prevalent in women than in men (54% vs. 10% p < 0.001). We will work with prevention messaging experts and female community members to develop an innovative community-based program to improve identification, treatment and prevention of risk factors and behaviors associated with the development of cardiovascular disease. Specific Aims: 1. Develop a lay health advisor training curriculum to reduce cardiovascular risk factors. 2. Implement community screening of cardiovascular disease risk factors and prevention messaging to reduce these risks. 3. Assess effectiveness of community promotoras for identifying and reducing cardiovascular risk factors.  

Research Significance

As in many low- and middle-income countries, the prevalence of cardiovascular disease associated with hypertension and obesity is increasing in Lomas de Zapallal – a Peruvian peri-urban shantytown. Efforts to reach populations living in urban slums have been limited by lack of health infrastructure to provide screening and treatment of hypertension and other medical conditions associated with development of cardiovascular disease, as well as limited prevention messaging regarding improving nutrition and reducing risks for cardiovascular disease. This project will work with Peruvian physicians and an existing network of community leaders to develop community screening for cardiovascular diseases, and empower female community leaders to provide prevention messaging, nutritional guidance and referral of community members with risks for cardiovascular disease to appropriate treatment. If successful, this approach could be adopted for use in other impoverished settings.