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Original Research

A cardiovascular disease risk factor screening program designed to reach rural residents of Maine, USA

Submitted: 16 February 2011
Revised: 4 June 2011
Published: 5 August 2011

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Author(s) : Harris DE, Hamel L, Aboueissa A, Johnson D.

Citation: Harris DE, Hamel L, Aboueissa A, Johnson D.  A cardiovascular disease risk factor screening program designed to reach rural residents of Maine, USA. Rural and Remote Health (Internet) 2011; 11: 1727. Available: (Accessed 17 October 2017)


Introduction:  Cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death in many countries and a particular burden to rural communities. Hypertension and diabetes are risk factors for cardiovascular disease, but screening for them is suboptimal, particularly in rural settings. Thus screening programs targeting rural dwellers may be important. This article reports the findings of a blood pressure (BP) and blood glucose screening program conducted from a mobile van that visited community events including agricultural fairs across Maine, USA to bring screening to rural Mainers. The study objectives were to determine: (1) if the screening program was successful at reaching rural Mainers; (2) if rural screenees had a different risk of hypertension or diabetes compared with non-rural screenees; and (3) what characteristics of a community event predict that a screening conducted at that event will reach a high fraction of rural residents.
Methods:  The van visited events from 2006-2009 conducting voluntary BP and blood glucose screenings. Results were analyzed by the rurality of the town of residence of the screenees, the rurality of location of the screening event, and the type of screening event (agricultural fair vs other). Systolic BP of 140 mmHg or greater or diastolic BP of 90 mmHg  or greater was considered to be hypertension, and systolic BP of 120–139 mmHg or diastolic BP 80–89 mmHg  as pre-hypertension. Blood glucose of 140–199 mg/dL was considered to be pre-diabetes and blood glucose of 200 mg/dL or greater as diabetes. Rurality was divided into urban, sub-urban, large rural town, and small rural town/ isolated rural based on Rural Urban Commuting Codes (RUCAs), assigned by zip code. Mean BP and blood glucose values were compared across residence rurality categories by ANOVA, the distribution of screening values into normal/ abnormal categories was compared across residence rurality categories by χ2 test, and the impact of type and rurality of location of screening event on the residence of screenees was assessed with analysis by regression with categorical variables.
Results:  Over 4 years, 2451 Mainers from 254 towns were screened at 42 events located in 28 towns. Seventy-six percent of screenees lived in rural areas and screenees were more likely to live in rural areas compared with all Maine residents (p<0.001). Rurality of residence impacted hypertension risk (p=0.001) but not diabetes risk. Screenees from large rural towns had the highest mean systolic BPs and rural-dwellers had higher hypertension or pre-hypertension risk compared with urban/ sub-urban dwellers. Conducting screenings at agricultural fairs (p=0.003) and in rural areas (p=0.001) were independent predictors of attracting more rural screenees.
Conclusions:  Holding cardiovascular risk factor screenings in locations that are culturally appropriate and geographically convenient for an at-risk population are common approaches; however, their effectiveness is seldom tested. The results show that both the type of event at which the screening is conducted and the rurality of location of that event help attract rural screenees, and that it is possible for a screening program to reach a population significantly more rural than the population of the state and one that has an elevated hypertension risk.

Key words: cardiovascular disease, diabetes, hypertension, screening, USA.

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