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AstraZeneca’s Healthy Heart Africa screens 3.9 million Ugandans for hypertension

Hypertension screening

Kampala, Uganda | THE INDEPENDENT | AstraZeneca’s Healthy Heart Africa (HHA) programme marked two years of action against hypertension on May 17, working in partnership with the Ministry of Health (MoH) and the Uganda Protestant Medical Bureau (UPMB).

Since its launch in May 2020, up to the end of March 2022, the programme has conducted over 3.9 million blood pressure screenings, aiming to contribute to the prevention and control of cardiovascular diseases (CVD) in the country through early identification of elevated blood pressure.

While marking the programme’s anniversary alongside World Hypertension Day, the partners urged people in Uganda to regularly measure their blood pressure for early diagnosis, in line with this year’s global theme of ‘Measure Your Blood Pressure Accurately, Control It, Live Longer.’

Hypertension, commonly known as high blood pressure, is a serious medical disease that can lead to heart attack, stroke, and heart failure, including other health problems. It is a leading cause of premature death worldwide.

In Uganda, the 2014 national STEPwise survey revealed that 24.4 percent of Ugandans have hypertension. In addition, the survey revealed that 70 percent of respondents had never had their blood pressure measured, while 76.1 percent of those found with high blood pressure were unaware and hence not on treatment.

Even though hypertension is a silent killer with no symptoms, it can be avoided by regularly exercising, eating more fruits and vegetables, avoiding tobacco, avoiding excessive consumption of alcohol, and limiting foods high in saturated fats, among other risk factors.

Dr Gerald Mutungi, Assistant Commissioner in charge of Non communicable diseases, Ministry of Health, Uganda said: “As we mark World Hypertension Day , we emphasize the need to detect high blood pressure early in order to control it before it develops into more serious conditions like stroke.

The collaboration with the Healthy Heart Africa programme has contributed to this objective in a public- private partnership, to make screening services available at the primary healthcare level. This has allowed people access to their blood pressure measurements. As a Ministry, we have ensured that non-communicable diseases such as hypertension are included in the list of priority services that need to continue despite the pandemic because we know their impact on building resilient health systems and in supporting post-pandemic recovery.”

Since its launch in 2014, HHA has expanded to support local health systems in eight countries to date.

The programme is present in Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania, Ethiopia, Ghana, Senegal, Côte d’Ivoire and Rwanda, with agreement to launch in Nigeria. In Uganda, HHA aligns with the ongoing objectives of managing NCDs through community awareness and education, providing training of healthcare workers and the supply of basic equipment to enable community-level screening and accurate diagnosis of hypertension. Alongside hypertension, HHA in Uganda also screens for respiratory conditions such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and asthma.

Dr Allan Mackenzie, Associate Director, Government Affairs, Global Sustainability – Access to Healthcare said: “We are happy to mark HHA’s two-year anniversary in Uganda alongside the worldwide call to action for early detection of elevated blood pressure and the need to continue treatment for those with a confirmed diagnosis. Through our partnership with the Ministry of Health and Uganda Protestant Medical Bureau, we have identified over 1.1 million elevated blood pressure readings, with over 980,000 confirmed diagnoses for hypertension. These numbers are people who learned about their elevated blood pressure readings early enough to control it and others that were diagnosed with the disease to hopefully start treatment before severe consequences.”

Adding on the impact made, Dr Tonny Tumwesigye, Executive Director, Uganda Protestant Medical Bureau said: “Through HHA, we have integrated existing healthcare structures into primary care services to improve reach to people and contribute to the prevention and halting of NCD spread in Uganda. The programme is currently present in the South-Western Region (Mbarara), Eastern Region (Jinja) and Central Region (Mityana) where we have used our extensive community-level presence to improve access to hypertension healthcare services to those who need it.”

Since launching in 2014 to the end of March 2022, HHA has conducted over 25.7 million blood pressure screenings in the community and in healthcare facilities in countries of implementation. It has also trained over 9,100 healthcare workers, including doctors, nurses, community health volunteers and pharmacists to provide education and awareness, screening, and treatment. Additionally, it has activated over 900 healthcare facilities in Africa to provide hypertension services and identified over 5 million people with elevated blood pressure.

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