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Essentia Health ranks high on lowering blood pressure

For the past two years, Essentia Health patients have been fighting a battle to curb high blood pressure through a national program called Measure Up/Pressure Down.

Now, those efforts are paying off. The American Medical Group Association has ranked Essentia Health in the 90-percentile for health care systems that have lowered patient blood pressure.

"We challenged our healthcare providers to raise the bar on high blood pressure treatment and control with a first-of-its-kind campaign," said Donald W. Fisher, chief executive officer of the American Medical Group Association. "Our initial data confirm that we are making a dramatic difference in the health and well-being of our patients with high blood pressure less than two years into our effort."

The campaign urges health systems to achieve a specific goal by 2016 - 80 percent of high blood pressure patients have their condition under control. System-wide this fall, Essentia Health not only met that goal, it exceeded it. Essentia Health scored better than 90 percent of the 84 medical groups reporting results.

"Essentia Health works with all of our team members on competencies such as proper blood pressure measurement and follow-up care," said Cindy Ferrara, manager in quality improvement. "We also focus on our patients' lifestyle choices, and work on modifications such as weight loss and tobacco cessation, both of which can lower blood pressure."

Success is critical, since high blood pressure is "the silent killer." Symptoms often go unnoticed until it's too late. Complications from high blood pressure contribute to about 1,000 deaths each day in the United States.

"We have a higher prevalence of patients with high blood pressure in this area, so it's very important for us to provide the best possible care," adds Ferrara.

To learn more about the "Measure Up/Pressure Down" campaign, visit