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Health: Three best practices in tackling hypertension

Prof Elija Ogola cardiologist addresses on cardiovascular diseases during the AstraZeneca’s Heathy Heart Africa progamme function.

Back in October 2014, a programme dubbed the Healthy Heart Africa was launched by AstraZeneca, a pharmaceutical company headquartered in the UK, in partnership with the Kenyan Ministry of Health and a number of partners. At first sight, this sounded like most other programmes. However, it has a number of recommendable best practices that should serve as a blue print for other programmes.

Have a specific focus for your programme

The programmes’ ultimate aim was to help the government address the increasing burden Cardiovascular diseases. Considering that this refers to a wide range of diseases that affects the heart or blood vessels, if would have been at best overly ambitious to take up this challenge through one programme. The programme did the next best thing: tackle one of the key contributors to these diseases: High blood pressure.

As it turns out, hypertension or high blood pressure affects many adult Kenyans, over 46% to be precise, according to the programme.  This silent condition has no symptoms, hence many carriers  only become aware of it when it’s too late. Partners involved in the progarmme are tackling the challenge by focusing on awareness for the public and training for health care workers to increase the uptake of screening and treatment.

For success on the ground, choose the right partners

According to the programmes managers who addressed a press conference December 3rd 2015, in the course of one year, the programme has trained over 2600 healthcare workers, including including  doctors,  nurses,  community  health volunteers and pharmacists to provide education and awareness, screening and treatment services for hypertension across 21 counties. The programme also mobilised 250 health facilities to provide hypertension services, including the establishment of suppy systems for afforbable medicines.

Working with the governments at national and county levels is key, even though it might imply being affected by the multiple strikes and the bureaucracy that plague the public healthcare sector. According to the AMREF, one of the partners involved in the programme, partners were selected according to their strengths and ability to roll out projects on the ground in Kenya, which was the first country of implementation.

Dr Loise Nyanjau-Ministry of Health gives a talk at AstraZeneca’s Heathy Heart Africa programme which fights hypertension and cardiovacular diseases.

Track successes and failures

At the beginning, AstraZeneca, the initiator of the programme, partnered with Abt Associates to collectdata on the current state of hypertension in Kenyan households and facilities, as well as establish the level of awareness and treatment across the regionswhich were selected to take part in the programme.

The data shows that 87% of survey respondents indicated that they had heard of hypertension, but a small proportion are aware of the risk factors and health risks associated with hypertension, particularly among rural and lower income Kenyans. This and other types of information collected will be useful in evaluating the impact of the programme through periodic comparative surveys.

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