CHS faculty member works with doctors to help young adults with hypertension

From left to right, Assistant Professor Jennifer Fink, Mary Briggs-Sedlachek (research coordinator), Erin Barwick (health coach), and Dr. Lisa Sullivan Vedder (co-principal investigator)

From left to right, Assistant Professor Jennifer Fink, Mary Briggs-Sedlachek (research coordinator), Erin Barwick (health coach), and Dr. Lisa Sullivan Vedder (co-principal investigator)

Assistant Professor Jennifer T. Fink, PhD, MS, Department of Health Informatics and Administration, and program director for the Master in Healthcare Administration, is working with researchers in the region to tackle the problem of hypertension in young adults.

“Many young people, especially college students, don’t go to the doctor as regularly as they should, and when they do go to the doctor and hypertension is diagnosed, they tend to assume that they aren’t at a high risk of complications,” Fink noted. “Of course, this is not the case and we are trying to figure out best practices for helping young people understand the unique health risks of hypertension they face when the disorder is left unaddressed.”

Fink’s collaborators include Dr. Heather Johnson, principal investigator of the project and associate professor in the Division of Cardiovascular Medicine at the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health, and Dr. Lisa Sullivan Vedder, co-principal investigator and physician from Aurora Health Care.

The MyHEART Study

As a co-principal investigator of the MyHEART study, Fink hopes to develop a health coaching intervention protocol that will help racially/ethnically diverse young adults in both Madison and Milwaukee understand the risks associated with high blood pressure.

“Doctors are reluctant to treat young adults (ages 18-39) who have high blood pressure with medication. We hope that our protocol will prove a useful asset when coaching young people on how to get their blood pressure under control at this young age. By learning how to live a healthy lifestyle, they may be able to prevent further health concerns down the road” said Fink.

The study recently received grant funding from the National Institutes of Health, sub-funded through UW-Madison, which will support the project for the next five years. The study will rely on the participation of more than 300 individuals and will address the public health burden of low hypertension control rates in young adults, which results in increased morbidity, mortality and health care costs.

If you are between the ages of 18-39 and have been diagnosed with elevated blood pressure, contact Mary Briggs-Sedlachek to participate in the study at or (414) 219-4873.

Taking initiative as a research partner

Fink’s role in the research team will be to assist with the multi-site Institutional Review Board (IRB) application, marketing and recruitment efforts and dissemination of data. She will serve as a liaison to data analysts at the Aurora Research Institute for electronic health record identification of eligible participants. She will also work with the research coordinators of the Wisconsin Network for Health Research (WiNHR) to ensure that the study is completed as outlined in the proposal.

MyHEART dovetails nicely with Fink’s prior research on obesity and weight loss, as well as investigations on how to reduce patient risk of metabolic syndrome.