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Healthy Heart Africa expands in Uganda to combat hypertension and kidney disease

Hypertension testing

Hypertension testing

In a collaborative effort between AstraZeneca, the ministry of Health, and Uganda’s Protestant Medical Bureau, Health minister Dr Jane Ruth Aceng announced the extension of the Healthy Heart Africa (HHA) program in Uganda.

This initiative aims to tackle hypertension, cardiovascular disease and chronic kidney disease. The announcement took place at an event held at the Protea hotel, attended by notable figures including Deepak Arora, country president of the African Cluster at AstraZeneca; Dr Tonny Tumwesigye, executive director of the Uganda Protestant Medical Bureau; and Dr Joseph Gyagenda Ogavu, president of the Uganda Kidney Foundation.

Healthy Heart Africa (HHA) is a pioneering health equity program launched in 2014 to address the increasing burden of cardiovascular diseases in Africa. Its goal is to reach 10 million people with hypertension by 2025. The program partners with governments, health providers and local communities to mitigate the social and economic burdens of heart and kidney diseases by targeting those in greatest need and improving equitable access to care.

HHA also focuses on enhancing access and funding for the prevention and screening of chronic kidney disease across the continent. It supports the adoption of evidence-based treatment guidelines and expands education and awareness initiatives.

According to HHA, the program has expanded into nine countries across sub-Saharan Africa. It has trained more than 11,480 healthcare workers, identified over 10.8 million people with elevated blood pressure readings, and conducted over 54.5 million blood pressure screenings.

HHA is broadening its scope to address a wider range of non-communicable diseases, including both heart and kidney diseases in Africa. The primary beneficiaries of the program are individuals diagnosed with hypertension, type-2 diabetes, chronic kidney disease (CKD), and at-risk populations, including those in rural areas.

The initiative promotes early screening and diagnosis, ensuring timely intervention for patients who might otherwise go undiagnosed until their conditions are advanced. It also aims to reduce mortality and morbidity, improve health outcomes, increase access to early diagnosis and continuous treatment, and create sustainable health systems.

This development follows the memorandum of understanding signed between the ministry of Health Uganda and AstraZeneca on May 27, 2024, during the World Food Summit in Geneva. The agreement aimed to spotlight the effectiveness of the fight against heart diseases and the escalating burden of non-communicable diseases.

Additionally, this development comes from Healthy Heart Africa, a cluster part of AstraZeneca Africa, which has dedicated efforts to combat non-communicable diseases and improve health outcomes for people throughout Africa. The extension of the Healthy Heart Africa program in Uganda results from the interconnected nature of cardiovascular disease and kidney disease and the impact of the negative effects of climate change on health.

According to the World Health Organization, over 1.28 billion adults globally suffer from hypertension, and 2.0 million people die yearly due to chronic kidney disease. Currently, the global burden of non-communicable diseases continues to increase. According to the World Health Organization, 35% of total deaths in Uganda are due to non-communicable diseases, and the prevalence of chronic kidney disease varies between 2% and 7%, with a significantly higher occurrence of up to 15% among individuals living with HIV or hypertension.

“The incidence of kidney disease currently ranks among the top 10 causes of mortality. Among patients admitted with chronic kidney disease, the case fatality rate stands at 21% and rises to 51% among those with end-stage kidney disease,” the World Health Organization report states.

Speaking at the event, Aceng noted, “The expansion of the Healthy Heart Africa program to address chronic kidney disease in Uganda is timely, and represents a significant advancement in our nation’s healthcare landscape. Through strategic collaboration with AstraZeneca and the Uganda Protestant Medical Bureau, we are steadfast in our commitment to improving access to high-quality healthcare services and fostering improved health outcomes for all Ugandans.

The minister emphasized that high blood pressure is a leading risk factor for cardiovascular and kidney disease, with prevalence ranging from 2% to 7% and as high as 15% among individuals living with HIV. She acknowledged that non-communicable diseases, such as hypertension and chronic kidney disease, are preventable, and highlighted that they are mainly caused by unhealthy lifestyles, including consuming fast food and alcohol.

She advised Ugandans to adopt healthier lifestyles, including regular physical exercise, reducing alcohol intake, and minimizing the consumption of fast foods to combat non-communicable diseases.

Deepak Arora, said, “Today marks a significant milestone in our commitment to enhance healthcare outcomes across Africa. As the burden of chronic kidney disease continues to rise in sub-Saharan Africa, AstraZeneca remains committed to expanding the mission of Healthy Heart Africa to address this pressing health challenge. Our efforts in Uganda signify a pivotal step towards improving healthcare outcomes and combating the devastating impact of non-communicable diseases in the region. Through this initiative, we aim to challenge conventional perspectives and advocate for healthcare policy reforms to elevate outcomes for all individuals affected by non-communicable diseases, regardless of their demographic, geographic, or socioeconomic circumstances.”

Tonny Tumwesigye, stated, “The integration of chronic kidney disease (CKD) protocol into Uganda’s healthcare framework marks a critical advancement. Given the considerable burden of kidney disease in Uganda and its associated traditional risk factors, a united effort is necessary. With AstraZeneca’s scientific expertise and the government’s instrumental role in policy integration, Uganda’s Protestant Medical Bureau is eager to contribute to institutional and technical capacity building. We aim at ensuring the seamless implementation of this initiative, ultimately benefiting the health of Ugandans.”

Dr Gyagenda Joseph Ogavu, noted, “Between two and seven per cent of Ugandans are living with chronic kidney disease, and among those with diabetes and hypertension, the prevalence is as high as 15 per cent. Fifteen out of 100 people with diabetes and hypertension have chronic kidney disease.”

Ogavu noted that the foundation is working hard to make kidney transplants in Uganda affordable for all patients with chronic kidney disease.


0 #1 F.O. Okello, PhD 2024-07-11 12:39
Nice to see this progress and expansion. I was Principal Investigator for the Healthy Heart Africa pilot in Kenya between 2015-2016.

Always great to see that evidence informs actions and progress.
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