Program Aimed At Decreasing Burden of Heart Diseases Launched In Uganda

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AstraZeneca, the Ministry of Health (MoH) and the Uganda Protestant Medical Bureau (UPMB) Tuesday launched the Healthy Heart Africa programme on a national level in Uganda.

AstraZeneca is a global, science-led biopharmaceutical company that focuses on the discovery, development, and commercialization of prescription medicines, primarily for the treatment of diseases in three main therapy areas – Oncology, Cardiovascular and Metabolic Diseases, and Respiratory

The launch follows the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) that paved the way for implementation of the programme 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.

In 2014, the national STEPwise survey in Uganda revealed that 24.3 percent of Ugandans had elevated blood pressure and 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 76.1 percent of those with raised blood pressure were untreated.

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.

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

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Health Ministry Ps Dr. Diana Atwine gets screened at the launch of the Healthy Heart Africa Programme

The 2014 STEPwise survey pointed to a high prevalence of risk factors such as tobacco use, alcohol abuse and obesity among respondents, calling for a need to increase and sustain awareness and prevention campaigns in Uganda.

As such, the Healthy Heart Africa programme is launched on a national level and aligns with the 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.

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

“This launch is a momentous occasion as our partnership with the HHA programme is an opportunity to bring hypertension healthcare closer to the people. Approximately 80 percent of our member institutions are located in rural and poor communities and we will leverage this to implement community based interventions and improve access to healthcare in vulnerable communities as well as strengthening health systems through training of healthcare providers,”
said Dr Tonny Tumwesigye, Executive Director, Uganda Protestant Medical Bureau.

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Since launching in Kenya six years ago and subsequently expanding to Ethiopia in 2016, Tanzania in 2018, Ghana in 2019 and Uganda in 2020, HHA has conducted over 15.5 million blood pressure screenings in the community and in healthcare facilities; trained over 7,290 healthcare workers, to provide education and awareness, screening and treatment services for hypertension; activated 800 healthcare facilities in Africa to provide hypertension services, and identified over 2.8 million elevated blood pressure readings.

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