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Health Social Networks of Black Women With Hypertension.

Nursing Research 2023 November
BACKGROUND: The prevalence of hypertension is 55% among African American/Black women, who have a higher risk for poor health outcomes compared to women from other racial and ethnic groups, in part because of uncontrolled blood pressure. Previous research results suggest that peers may positively influence self-management of chronic conditions like hypertension. However, few studies have described the personal characteristics of peers in the health social networks of Black women.

OBJECTIVE: This substudy aimed to examine health social networks and describe the peers' characteristics, as reported by a convenience sample of Black women with hypertension.

METHODS: In this analysis of data from a larger study, 94 Black women with hypertension attending a church conference participated in a cross-sectional, descriptive study. Their mean age was 59 years, and their mean systolic blood pressure was 143 mm Hg. All participants completed a survey to gather data about (a) the characteristics of individuals they discussed health matters with (their peers or health social network) and (b) their perceptions about hypertension status and knowledge of hypertension among the peers in their health social network.

RESULTS: Collectively, participants from the larger study named a total of 658 peers who were part of their health social networks; the mean health social network size was six peers. The peers were mostly women, Black, family members, and, on average, 54 years old. The participants discussed hypertension with 71% of the peers, reported that 36% had hypertension, and felt that 67% were somewhat or very knowledgeable about the condition. A small, positive correlation existed between the participants' health social network size (number of peers named) and their systolic blood pressure levels.

DISCUSSION: The health social network peers were similar to those in the larger study, with most of the same gender, race, and age. The findings of this analysis may be used to help practitioners and scientists guide patients in building health social networks for support in self-managing hypertension and conducting future studies to examine the best strategies for developing and using health social networks to improve health outcomes and reduce health disparities.

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