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Ethn Dis. 2008 Spring;18(2):192-7.

Racial and ethnic disparities associated with knowledge of symptoms of heart attack and use of 911: National Health Interview Survey, 2001.

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  • 1Division for Heart Disease and Stroke Prevention, National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Atlanta, Georgia 30341, USA.



Heart attacks are more prevalent among Hispanics and Blacks than among Whites. Bystanders must be able to recognize heart attack symptoms and activate the emergency response system in order to receive time-dependent therapies that increase survival. This study estimated racial/ethnic disparities in awareness of heart attack symptoms in a sample of the US population.


We evaluated data from 33,059 adult participants in the 2001 National Health Interview Survey. Respondents indicated their awareness of five heart attack symptoms and the need to call 911 in the presence of such symptoms.


Hispanics and Blacks were less likely to recognize each heart attack symptom than were Whites (P<.05). Hispanics (25.6%), people aged 18-24 years (33.6%), men (39.1%), and those with less than a high school education (31.3%) were less likely to recognize all five heart attack symptoms and report that they would call 911 than were Whites (45.8%), Blacks (36.1%), respondents aged 45-64 years (47.7%) and >65 years (43.9%), and those with a high school education (41.0%) or more (45.6%). In multivariate logistic regression analyses, Blacks (OR .73, 95% CI .66-.80) and Hispanics (OR .49, 95% CI .45-.54) were less likely than were Whites to recognize all five heart attack symptoms and the need to call 911 if someone had these symptoms.


One Healthy People 2010 goal is to eliminate health disparities. Racial/ethnic disparities exist in knowledge of heart attack symptoms and the need to call 911. Special educational efforts should focus on Black and Hispanic populations and highlight the importance of symptoms and time-dependent therapies.

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