Finding a Better U: Community outreach heart health improvement program developed at UA


Heart disease is the No. 1 cause of death in Summit County.

To address the heart-health crisis of the county, faculty at The University of Akron have developed a program to improve the health practices of individuals living in Summit County. The program, (FABU) is funded by an Ohio Commission on Minority Health two-year grant of $150,000, and is sponsored by the University of Akron Foundation and the College of Health Professions (CHP).

FABU program developers

Pictured in the front row, from left, are Dr. Judith A. Juvancic-Heltzel , Dr. Mary Jo MacCracken, Dr. Carolyn Murrock and Jolene Lane. In the back row, from left, are Will Cole, Alexis Holt and Dr. Matt Akers.

FABU will offer on-site weekly free exercise and nutrition classes to more than 100 local residents living in Akron’s AMHA apartments (Callis, Wesle, and Williams Towers) and Alpha Phi Alpha homes (Belcher, Nimmer, Saferstein I and II).

The program is led by faculty from UA, including Dr. Mary Jo MacCracken, professor of sport studies, and Alexis M. Holt, exercise science assistant lecturer. The two will be assisted by Dr. Carolyn Murrock, R.N., professor of nursing, and Dr. Judith A. Juvancic-Heltzel, associate professor of exercise science.

“The primary risk factors for heart disease are diabetes, hypertension and obesity. We want to do our part in combating these issues by promoting exercise and good dietary habits,” said Murrock, noting that Summit County reports a “13.9% prevalence of Type 2 Diabetes, which is higher than the 12% average across the state of Ohio.” Additionally, she continues, 14.8% of adults in Summit County are at risk for developing diabetes. 

The FABU team will collect quarterly clinical measures for heart disease and diabetes from participants, including BMI, blood pressure, waist circumference, cholesterol and blood sugar levels. Data will be shared with the Ohio Commission on Minority Health to determine the level of impact that exercise and nutrition programs have in decreasing the risk factors of heart disease and diabetes. 

The team has a goal of improving the heart health of local minority adults, who are disproportionately affected by heart disease. FABU will also allow UA students in nursing, nutrition, and sport science and wellness to gain valuable experience by participating in FABU data collection and instruction. 

CHP and the University of Akron Foundation plan to launch FABU in November 2019.

Media contact: Cristine Boyd, 330-972-6476 or cboyd