Hypertension is a major cause of premature deaths globally. People living with hypertension have persistently elevated blood pressure, which results in damage to the heart if not controlled and managed. The disease is also referred to as the ‘silent killer’ because it does not present with symptoms and people with high blood pressure are often unaware of it unless diagnosed.
According to WHO estimates from 2016, non-communicable diseases (NCDs) accounted for 44 percent of total annual deaths in Rwanda. The Rwanda nationwide non-communicable diseases STEPwise survey revealed that 15.9 percent of participants had elevated blood pressure. RBC further estimates that out of over one million people with hypertension, only 80,000 are enrolled at clinics , revealing a gap between diagnosis and treatment.
Commenting on the development, Dr. Francois Uwinkindi, Non-Communicable Diseases Division Manager at Rwanda Biomedical Centre said: “It is not difficult to diagnose hypertension, and it can be treated with low-cost medicines and lifestyle changes, nevertheless there are significant gaps in the diagnosis and management of high blood pressure in Rwanda which needs to be addressed to reduce the burden of NCDs on our health systems.
We welcome partnerships such as the Healthy Heart Africa programme which is committed to providing education and awareness of the disease for better prevention and control. It also embodies the principles of our National NCD strategy that encourages community action to increase early identification of ailments, and multisector collaboration to address illnesses such as hypertension. ”
Strategies put in place by the Ministry of Health, the RBC and other stakeholders in Rwanda are meant to take all the steps needed to prevent an avoidable burden of NCDs in the country.
Speaking at the event, Dr. Daniel Ngamije, the Minister of Health revealed that Rwanda’s current investment in preventing NCDs is aimed at saving future costs in treating advanced stages of diseases such as hypertension.
"We have continued to keep our NCD policies updated, setting in place plans such as the 2020-2025 National Strategy and Costed Action Plan for the Prevention and Control of Non-Communicable Diseases. This plan’s main objective is to reduce NCD-related premature mortality by 25% by 2025. It aims to implement an inclusive, equality-based access to healthcare strategy for the benefit of all people,” he noted.
HHA is a multi-country programme currently implemented in nine countries including Kenya, Ethiopia, Tanzania, Ghana, Uganda, Côte d’Ivoire, Senegal, Rwanda, and most recently, Nigeria.
Ashling Mulvaney, Vice President, Global Sustainability, Access to Healthcare, at AstraZeneca expressed delight for the official launch of the Healthy Heart Africa programme in Rwanda in collaboration with the Rwanda Biomedical Centre and PATH.
"It builds on the remarkable effort that the Ministry of Health and RBC have invested to address the growing challenge of non-communicable diseases. HHA is an access to healthcare initiative that contributes to building resilient sustainable healthcare systems by training healthcare providers, providing education and awareness for NCD risk factors and equipping healthcare systems with the resources needed to diagnose and manage hypertension,” she said.
In the effort to halt and reverse the prevalence of hypertension, collecting accurate data from countries is vital since it helps to build a true picture of the problem and informs stakeholders in developing counter measures.
“Our primary healthcare approach has always been people-centred and driven by data, and we will use this approach to our implementation to reach people where they live and work and link them to quality care for hypertension as part of our mission to reduce health inequalities,” said Helen McGuire, Global Programme Leader, Non-communicable Diseases at PATH.
“We are excited to collaborate with HHA to bring hypertension care services to more people, and possibly impact future decision-making on hypertension policies through data collected via the programme.”
About Healthy Heart Africa
Healthy Heart Africa (HHA) is AstraZeneca’s innovative programme committed to tackling hypertension (high blood pressure) and the increasing burden of cardiovascular disease (CVD) in Africa. To achieve this, HHA supports local health systems by increasing awareness of the symptoms and risks of hypertension and by offering education, screening, reduced-cost treatment, and control.
Since launching in Kenya in 2014 and subsequently expanding to Ethiopia in 2016, Tanzania in 2018, Ghana in 2019, Uganda in 2020, and Côte d’Ivoire, Senegal and Rwanda in 2021, HHA has conducted over 27.1 million screenings, trained over 9,100 healthcare workers to provide education and awareness, screening and treatment services for hypertension; activated over 950 healthcare facilities in Africa to provide hypertension services, with the establishment of secure supply chains for low cost, high-quality branded antihypertensive medicines where applicable, and identified over 5.3 million elevated blood pressure readings.
AstraZeneca is a global, science-led biopharmaceutical company that focuses on the discovery, development, and commercialisation of prescription medicines in Oncology, Rare Diseases and BioPharmaceuticals, including Cardiovascular, Renal & Metabolism, and Respiratory & Immunology. Based in Cambridge, UK, AstraZeneca operates in over 100 countries and its innovative medicines are used by millions of patients worldwide.
PATH is a global nonprofit dedicated to ending health inequity. With more than 40 years of experience forging multisector partnerships, and expertise in science, health, economics, technology, advocacy, and dozens of other specialties, PATH develops and scales innovative solutions to the world’s most pressing public health challenges.