NAIROBI, Kenya, Nov 25 – Cardiovascular diseases (CVDs) remain the leading cause of premature death and disease burden globally, disproportionately affecting low-and middle-income countries (LMICs), with Africa recording the highest prevalence of hypertension, at 27 percent compared to the Americas where the prevalence is 18 percent.
According to the National STEPwise Survey, almost one in four Kenyans is living with hypertension and more than half of Kenyans have never had their blood pressure measured.
Among those stated to have been earlier diagnosed with hypertension, only 22.3 percent were on medication prescribed by a health worker.
Low public awareness, access to screening, and low understanding of prevention guidelines are some of the obstacles affecting effective prevention, control, and management of hypertension, as was established in the ongoing 15th Pan-African Society of Cardiology (PASCAR) and Kenya Cardiac Society (KCS) Congress 2021 in Mombasa.
The stakeholders highlighted disease prevention and treatment, the need to focus on primary healthcare, and partnerships as key strategies to build resilient health systems.
“Building resilient health systems is one of the most pressing focus areas for the health sector today,” Vice President, Global Sustainability, and Access to Healthcare at AstraZeneca Ashling Mulvaney said.
She lauded the milestones achieved by the Healthy Heart Africa (HHA) program in improving cardiovascular disease healthcare in Africa by integrating with existing health platforms, especially at the primary health care level.
“This has enabled more people to be screened for elevated blood pressure and facilitated early detection of hypertension,” said Mulvaney.
HHA was launched in Kenya in collaboration with the Ministry of Health and in support of its commitment to combat Non-Communicable Diseases (NCDs).
“PASCAR has prioritized hypertension in order to reduce cases of stroke and heart disease in Africa and also to implement the roadmap which provides simple and practical guidelines for the management of hypertension,” Secretary-General at PASCAR and Principal Investigator for the HHA program Prof. Elijah Ogola said.
The goal is to achieve 25 percent relative reduction in hypertension on the continent by 2025, focusing on primary healthcare which is ideal for population-wide impact.
“Through its activities, HHA has been instrumental in empowering people living with cardiovascular diseases to manage and control their disease and in collecting data on hypertension which is key to informing data-centered policy,” he explained.
HHA is currently present in Kenya, Ethiopia, Tanzania, Ghana, Uganda, Côte d’Ivoire and Senegal, with an agreement to expand into Rwanda.
Mortality due to CVD in Kenya ranges from 6.1% to 8%, while autopsy studies suggest that more than 13% of cause-specific deaths among adults could be due to CVDs.
The prevalence of hypertension has increased over the last 25 years.
National STEPwise Survey has shown the overall prevalence to vary in various Kenyan communities. Rheumatic heart disease continues to be a major contributor to cardiovascular disease prevalence among children and adults.