Kampala, Uganda | THE INDEPENDENT | AstraZeneca has announced a planned expansion of its access to healthcare programme, Healthy Heart Africa (HHA), to 10 new countries, starting in 2023.
The programme, which is currently present in nine countries including Uganda, is designed to contribute to the prevention and control of hypertension and decrease the burden of cardiovascular diseases (CVDs) across Africa.
The World Heart Federation states that in 2019, Sub-Saharan Africa accounted for one million deaths from CVDs or 5.4% of all CVD-related deaths worldwide and 13% of all deaths in Africa.
Hypertension, commonly known as high blood pressure, is the most important modifiable risk factor for cardiovascular diseases. The World Health Organization (WHO) indicates that the African region has the highest prevalence of hypertension at 27%, demonstrating the need for prevention and management interventions. In 2011, the United Nations set a goal to reduce the risk of premature deaths from Non-Communicable Diseases by 25% by the year 2025.
HHA contributes to strengthening health systems by working in partnership with local stakeholders to provide services such as free blood pressure screening, creating education and awareness about cardiovascular diseases and their risk factors, providing blood pressure screening equipment and training healthcare workers on guidelines to improve the quality of care. Since 2014, the programme has conducted over 30.5 million blood pressure screenings and trained more than 9,900 healthcare workers.
Commenting on the planned expansion, Ashling Mulvaney, Vice President, Global Sustainability, Access to Healthcare, AstraZeneca said: “We believe in leveraging the power of partnerships to provide equitable and affordable access to life-changing treatments for people, especially in low and middle-income countries (LMICs). This expansion will increase our contribution to halting and reversing the prevalence of cardiovascular diseases in Africa.
“HHA has made a significant impact in supporting cardiovascular healthcare on the continent, as shown by our screening data and the number of healthcare workers trained to date. I am delighted that the programme has been recognised once again by the 2022 Access to Medicine Index, as a Best Practice for its role in contributing to access to affordable healthcare in Africa.”
The planned expansion will be to Burkina Faso, Central African Republic, The Gambia, Madagascar, Malawi, Morocco, Mozambique, Sierra Leone, Zambia, and Zimbabwe – in
partnership with the Africa Christian Health Associations Platform (ACHAP) and PATH, who will implement and manage the programme expansion to five countries each over the next two years.
Existing HHA programmes will continue in Kenya, Ethiopia, Tanzania (including Zanzibar), Ghana, Uganda, Côte d’Ivoire, Senegal, Rwanda, and Nigeria, with a range of implementing partners, including ACHAP and PATH.
Nkatha Njeru, Coordinator and Chief Executive Officer, ACHAP said: “As one of the current implementing partners for HHA in Africa, we have seen the impact being made at a community level. Because the programme integrates into existing healthcare systems to provide blood pressure screening and other related services, we are able to boost preventive healthcare for hypertension. The level of integration into existing health services will increase under this new expansion model, offering economies of scale and avoiding duplication.”
“Through community-based interventions and routine screening for blood pressure for all who walk through the activated facilities, we are able to identify cases of elevated blood pressure and refer them for diagnosis. As a result of these measures, HHA has been able to identify cases where hypertension status was previously unknown and link them to care.”
Helen McGuire, Global Programme Leader, Non-Communicable Diseases at PATH said: “ The approach of HHA to leverage investments in other areas of health to reach people living with co – and multi-morbidities is a practical example of what is needed going forward in global health. “
“PATH is active in the five new HHA countries working across global health priorities – we will leverage this work to reach many more people at risk for hypertension. Integrated services as part of strong Primary Health Care systems are the way forward to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals and Universal Health Coverage,” McGuire added.
The expansion will contribute to HHA’s ambition to reach 10 million people with elevated blood pressure across Africa by 2025.