MoH Partners with Biopharmaceutical Firm to Tackle the Burden of Heart Related Complications

Healthy Heart Africa staff conducting body pressure tests.

Government of Uganda through the Ministry of Health and AstraZeneca, a global science-led biopharmaceutical company, have Sunday announced the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) that will tackle the burden of undiagnosed and uncontrolled hypertension as well as raising awareness of lifestyle risk factors for Covid-19.

The Healthy Heart Africa (HHA) programme works with global and local partners with the aim of sustainably improving access to hypertension care by increasing education and awareness around lifestyle choice and CVD risk factors, training healthcare providers and driving care to lower levels of the healthcare system such as primary healthcare facilities and clinics as well as facilitating access to treatment where appropriate.

According to the national STEPwise survey conducted in Uganda in 2014, 24.3 percent of Ugandans had elevated blood pressure, while the pre-hypertension rate was at 37 percent. The study also showed that over 70 percent of the respondents had never had their blood pressure measured and that 76.1 percent of those with raised blood pressure were untreated.

Only 7.7 percent of participants with hypertension were aware of their high blood pressure, suggesting a high burden of undiagnosed and uncontrolled hypertension in the region. It further indicated that around one in 10 people surveyed had more than three risk factors for non-communicable diseases and among adults aged 40-69, there was a risk of cardiovascular disease (CVD). In Sub-Saharan Africa, nearly 30 percent of adults were estimated to have high blood pressure in 2014, the highest prevalence in any region.

As such, the programme extends to Uganda to help tackle the burden of undiagnosed and uncontrolled hypertension as well as raising awareness of lifestyle risk factors for CVD, using MoH guidelines to standardise care and upskilling health workers through training and education.

Commenting on the milestone, Dr. Diana Atwine, the Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Health, said: “At a time when we are tackling the COVID-19 pandemic, we also have an opportunity to highlight our common determination to provide quality healthcare to all Ugandans.”

“To achieve this, the Ministry of Health, under the leadership of His Excellency President Yoweri Museveni, shall continue to spearhead programmes that equip our healthcare system with the tools, resources, knowledge and trained personnel required to tackle both communicable and non-communicable diseases. We are therefore excited to unveil this partnership with AstraZeneca to implement the Healthy Heart Africa programme, which will contribute to our government’s objective of reversing the high prevalence of hypertension in our country,” Atwiine added.

Six years since the launch of Healthy Heart Africa, Uganda now becomes the fifth country of implementation after Kenya, Ethiopia, Tanzania and Ghana.

On his part, Ashling Mulvaney, Head of Access to Healthcare, Global Sustainability, AstraZeneca, said: “We are delighted to partner with the Ugandan Ministry of Health to support the government’s goal of tackling non-communicable diseases, which are a growing public health issue for the country.”

“Through Healthy Heart Africa, we will be able to identify barriers that hinder access to hypertension care and work together to strengthen the healthcare system by addressing the prevention, awareness and diagnosis of hypertension, as well as the education and training of health workers. Our experience since the first HHA programme was implemented has given us insight and learnings that will help us to implement a successful programme in Uganda together,” he added.

The programme has since its launch in 2014 conducted over 14.5 million blood pressure screenings in the community and in healthcare facilities as well as training over 7,200 healthcare workers, including doctors, nurses, community health volunteers and pharmacists to provide education and awareness, screening and treatment.

It has also activated 780 healthcare facilities in Africa to provide hypertension services
Identified over 2.6 million people with elevated blood pressure.

Cardiovascular diseases such as stroke and heart attacks are the leading cause of death globally, and hypertension is the leading risk factor for cardiovascular disease. Even though the prevalence of hypertension is high, with 150 million people in Sub-Saharan Africa expected to have hypertension by 2025, awareness and treatment rates have remained low.

Most cardiovascular diseases can be prevented by addressing behavioural risk factors such as tobacco use, obesity, physical inactivity and harmful use of alcohol using population-wide strategies.

People with cardiovascular disease or who are at high cardiovascular risk (due to the presence of one or more risk factors such as hypertension or already established disease) need early detection and management using counselling and medicines, as appropriate.

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