World Hypertension Day 2023: Message from WHO Regional Director for Africa, Dr Matshidiso Moeti
Theme: Measure Your Blood Pressure Accurately, Control It, Live Longer!
Every year, the global community commemorates the World Hypertension Day on the 17th of May. This year, the theme is Measure Your Blood Pressure Accurately, Control It, Live Longer. This is aimed at drawing attention to combatting the low level of awareness of hypertension as well as the limited availability of calibrated devices for accurate blood pressure measurement.
Dubbed as the ‘silent killer’, often times people with hypertension will not have any specific signs or symptoms directly attributed to the condition. Symptoms are usually foreboding of damage on specific organs in the body including the heart, brain, eyes and kidneys resulting from poor control.
In the African region, close to 40% of adults aged 30-79 years are hypertensive and only a quarter of these are taking medicines. Optimal blood pressure control is only attained in 11% of patients on medication. Hypertension is an important risk factor for cardiovascular diseases (CVDs) mostly heart attack, stroke, and heart failure which account for a significant burden of premature mortality from non-communicable diseases (NCDs).
Hypertension is easy to diagnose and there are safe and cost-effective treatment including pharmacologic and behavior change interventions. WHO has prioritized decentralized management and care for NCDs including management of hypertension, using the WHO Package of Essential Noncommunicable disease interventions for primary healthcare. In addition, the WHO has published a guidance on the technical specification for automated blood pressure monitoring devices to ensure improved access to accurate, affordable blood pressure devices which is often a significant barrier to proper medical care in low-resource settings. We need to regularly check our blood pressure and incase it is raised, adhere to medications as prescribed by the health provider.
We can fight hypertension and the responsibility starts with us as individuals and as communities taking control of our health and well-being. We need to adopt healthy lifestyles such as reducing salt intake, increasing portions of fruits and vegetables consumption, increasing physical activity, and avoiding tobacco and excessive alcohol consumption.
Effective prevention and control of hypertension requires a multi-sectoral approach. This approach should involve collaboration between the health sector and other sectors, such as education finance, and agriculture, to address the social determinants of hypertension. For example, interventions such as promoting healthy diets and increasing physical activity can be implemented in schools.
Governments in Africa can lead the way by implementing their commitments through policies and programs that address the root causes of hypertension, promote healthy environments, and improve access to healthcare services. This will require a significant investment in healthcare infrastructure, training of healthcare workers, and increasing access to affordable medications. Early detection through routine screening at all health service delivery levels is important and calibrated and validated blood pressure measuring devices should be available in all health facilities. In addition, quality assured medicines should be available for management of hypertension particularly at the primary level, as well as a robust mechanism to collect data to monitor outcomes from treatment and care.
In conclusion, addressing hypertension in Africa requires a multi-faceted approach that involves individuals, communities, and governments working together. We must work together to join the global effort to address hypertension and its related health consequences. For those living with hypertension, regularly measure your Blood Pressure accurately, control it, and live longer. By taking action today, we can prevent and control hypertension and improve the health and well-being of millions of people in Africa.