Move to deal with lifestyle disease at national level takes shape

Monday November 30 2020
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Ministry of Health PS Dr Diana Atwine testing for blood pressure.

By ISMAIL LADU

In an efforts to reign in on high blood pressure, also called hypertension, which is blood pressure that is higher than normal, three  important institution, namely; AstraZeneca, Uganda’s Ministry of Health (MoH) and the Uganda  Protestant  Medical  Bureau (UPMB) have launched an initiative that should help Ugandans decrease the burden of dealing with lifestyle diseases. 

The Healthy Heart Africa programme will be implemented on a national level in Uganda, following the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) that paved the way for implementation of the initiative in May this year.

“Aimed at contributing to the prevention and control of hypertension and decreasing the burden of cardiovascular disease in Uganda, the partnership is designed to strengthen the provision of services for hypertension, including raising awareness of lifestyle risk factors for CVDs using MoH guidelines to standardise care,” reads a joint statement issued this weekend.

Talking numbers

In  2014,  the  national  STEPwise  survey  in  Uganda  revealed  that  24.3  percent  of  Ugandans  had elevated  blood  pressure while the country’s pre-hypertension rate was at 37 percent.

According to  the  survey data,  70  percent  of the  respondents  had never  had  their blood  pressure measured  and  76  percent  of those  with  raised blood  pressure  were  untreated.

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In  addition, the survey revealed that a majority of people with high blood pressure were not aware of their status and that approximately  one  in  ten  people  have  more  than three  risk  factors for hypertension.

Speaking during the launch of the programme  last week, the Permanent  Secretary, Uganda’s Ministry of Health, Dr  Diana Atwine  Kanzira, noted: “Non-communicable  diseases (NCDs) are becoming  an increasing  burden on our health care  system and  their  increase is  being  attributed  to  lifestyle changes.”

The  2014  STEPwise  survey  pointed  to  a  high  prevalence  of  risk  factors  such  as tobacco use, alcohol abuse and obesity among respondents

Relevance

Armed with the findings of the survey, the implementation of the Healthy Heart Africa programme on the national level not only seems justified but comes in handy as well. The programmes calls for increased and sustain awareness and prevention campaigns. The programme also aligns with ongoing objective of managing NCDs through community sensitizations, training of healthcare workers and the supply of basic equipment.

 The  national  launch  follows  a  series  of  regional  launches  that  have  taken  place  in South-Western Region (Mbarara), Eastern Region (Jinja)and Central Region (Mityana), which saw local communities receive  free  blood  pressure  screening, alongside  efforts  to  raise awareness  and increase education around the disease and its risk factors.

The Vice President, Sustainability & Access to Healthcare, Global Sustainability at AstraZeneca, Ashling Mulvaney, said in a statement: “COVID-19  has  highlighted  that  partnership  and  investment  in health care needs  to  be  targeted  towards  prevention  and  sustainable  treatment  provision  in  order  to  build resilient health systems.

She continued: “Our partnership with the Ministry of Health and the Uganda Protestant Medical  Bureau will work  to  address  this gap, tackling low  awareness  levels  of NCDs and  their risk  factors  in  the  country. 

“Ultimately,  our  aim  is  to  work  together  to  reduce deaths  and disabilities  caused  by  hypertension  and  cardiovascular diseases  and decrease presentation  of NCDs in late stages.”

According to Executive Director, Uganda Protestant Medical Bureau, Dr Tonny Tumwesigye, as a result of the programme, hypertension healthcare will be closer to the people.

This is because approximately 80 percent of the member institutions are located in rural and poor communities. This will be leveraged to implement community based interventions and improve access to healthcare in vulnerable communities as well as strengthen health systems through training of healthcare providers.

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