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Renewed calls for universal healthcare as World Hypertension Day is marked

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By Stephanie Remie

Medical experts are calling for the adoption of universal health care across the global community as the best way of guaranteeing health for all.

A sound universal healthcare system, experts say will go a long way in tackling hypertension (high blood pressure) – with more than one billion people around the world believed to be living with the disease.

Kenya’s hypertension screening programme, AstraZeneca’s Healthy Heart Africa (HHA), in partnership with the Ministry of Health and implementing partners, Kenya Conference of Catholic Bishops (KCCB) and the Academic Model Providing Access to Health Care (AMPATH) have unanimously urged medical experts, governments and relevant stakeholders to invest heavily in universal healthcare if the battle against hypertension is to be won.

“As we mark the World Hypertension Day today under the theme measure your blood pressure, control it, live longer, we wish to re-assure hypertension and NCD patients that we are doing as much as possible to limit disruption of essential healthcare services at this time,” said Dr Rashid A. Aman, Chief Administrative Secretary, Ministry of Health.

This comes as a new study reveals an overall burden of 54.5% and 20.8% for prehypertension and hypertension respectively, out of a sample size of 5.9 million participants.

The study also reveals that men have a higher prevalence of prehypertension at 59% compared to women who have a 52% prevalence rate.

The highest rate of prehypertension was recorded among those aged 65 years and above, with a greater proportion attributed to rural populations – at 57% compared to urban dwellers at 55% respectively.

Prehypertension occurs when blood pressure values are above normal levels but are still below hypertension levels. The World Health Organization (WHO) defines prehypertension as a blood pressure reading that lies between 120/80 and 139/89.

Persons identified with prehypertension are vulnerable to transitioning to hypertension and are also associated with a higher risk of cardiovascular diseases.

Emerging challenges such as COVID-19 have shown the need for continuity and ongoing action to tackle non-communicable diseases.

This has been highlighted by reports linking hypertension, cardiovascular diseases or their risk factors such as obesity, smoking and physical inactivity with a greater risk of being severely impacted by COVID-19.

“We are delighted to mark six years of bringing healthcare closer to people through community and national interventions, and strengthening health systems on the continent as well as in creation of sustainable solutions for life changing treatment and prevention,” said Ashling Mulvaney, Vice President, Sustainability & Access to Healthcare, Global Sustainability at AstraZeneca.

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