Amref Health Africa joined the world in commemorating World Hypertension Day at Nairobi’s City Hall on 17 May 2016 where several health stakeholders met in an event that aimed to draw attention to a silent killer that is slowly taking it‘s toll in developing countries. At the event, grim statistics of the condition were laid out by the County Executive Committee Member of Health Services, Dr Bernard Muia who was also the Chief Guest.
“The four factors that most contribute to increase in hypertension cases are tobacco use, alcohol abuse, unhealthy diets and insufficient exercise. This has seen the prevalence rate in Kenya stand at 23.8%, and more worryingly, with only eight percent seeking medical attention,” the county executive minister of health, Nairobi County explained. The highest prevalence was reported among those age 60-69 years (53 per cent) with women age 60-69 years having a prevalence of 58 per cent compared with men in the same age group (49 per cent).
The minister also touched on the Healthy Heart Africa programme that seeks to reach 10 million hypertension victims throughout Africa by thanking the stakeholders involved.
“I would like to thank the Ministry of Health, AstraZeneca, Kenya Red Cross, Kenya Diabetes Association and Amref Health Africa, who hold a special place in my heart. These partners have offered consistent collaboration in hypertension prevention and reduction activities,” the minister added.
“We have noticed a gradual increase in non-communicable health issues in urban areas and hypertension is one of the diseases that we have had to adapt, and include in our mandates, in our fifteen years of offering health services,” stated Dr Lilian Mbau a project manager in Amref Health Africa.
That is the reason we came up with the Healthy Heart Africa programme that aims to prevent and treat hypertension cases in Africa”.
Amref Health Africa, together with the Academic Model Providing Access to Healthcare (AMPATH), Johns Hopkins Program for International Education in Gynecology and Obstetrics (JHPAIGO), Christian Health Association Of Kenya (CHAK), Population Services Kenya (PSK) and Mission for Essential Drugs & Supplies (MEDS) have been identified as the key partners by AstraZeneca to implement the programme that seeks to reach 10 million patients throughout the continent,” she added.
The rise of non-communicable diseases definitely presents a unique challenge especially considering that the health systems of most developing countries are designed to deal with infectious diseases. The collaboration of various stakeholders is a ray of light as the synergy created offers hope that the challenge that diseases such as hypertension present can be managed.
In line with the World Hypertension theme “Know your numbers” it is critical that all Kenyan visit the nearest health facility/provider to know their blood pressure. In addition it is critical that all Kenyans are encouraged to adopt healthy lifestyles including engaging in physical activity, consuming healthy diets low in salt and rich in fruits and vegetables and limiting smoking and alcohol intake.
Amref Health Africa has been implementing the Healthy Heart Africa Project since September 2014 within the Kibera Informal settlement with the goal of reducing the burden of hypertension among this community. The project has three objectives. These are to increase awareness and screening for hypertension, carry out capacity building for health workers on hypertension and to increase access, availability and utilization of quality hypertension services and commodities. The project had since reached more than 100,000 clients with hypertension screening and has started more than 2500 patients on treatment.