Researchers at the Makerere University School of Public Health (MakSPH) have called for innovative strategies to reverse the trends of the growing cases of cardiovascular diseases.
The call comes on the back drop of a study whose findings were published by the BioMed Central Journal (BMC) this month and indicated that at least one in four of the adult population in the districts of Mukono and Buikwe reportedly has high blood pressure.
According to experts, this is an indicator of rising cases of high blood pressure and other CVD risk factors in Uganda.
High blood pressure
The study observed that overall, almost one in four persons had high blood pressure with similar proportions among males compared to females.
The study also found that most adults were physically active as only four in a hundred (4%) were not physically active; with the proportion lower among males compared to females.
On smoking, the overall prevalence stood at 6.9%, higher among males than females in the two districts.
“We did not explore why smoking practices were higher among females than males in Mpunge parish, however, pipe smoking seemed common among females in this particular parish. The main driver of the practice among female could be social cultural reasons,” disclosed Dr. Geofrey Musinguzi, a lead author and Research Fellow in the Department of Disease Control and Environmental Health.
The overall prevalence of alcohol consumption was at 23% higher among men than women. The Parishes of Nagojje in Mukono, Lugala and Busabaga in Buikwe district had the highest proportion of adults consuming alcohol. The lowest proportion of alcohol consumption was observed in Nsakya, Buikwe, Namabu parishes in Buikwe district.
Rawlance Ndejjo, one of the researchers and a research fellow in the Department of Disease Control and Environmental Health observed that alcohol especially sold in small sachets is cheap and very easy to access in many of these communities littering roads and communal places.
“Locally brewed beer such as malwa and tonto are also easily accessible contributing to the high numbers of alcohol consumers. We need to limit the sale of sachet alcohol as a first step as we further sensitize communities about the dangers of alcohol consumption.”
The research was conducted under the SPICES project, an EU financed 2020 project focussing on the prevention of Cardio vascular diseases in low and middle-income countries and vulnerable populations in Europe.
According to Dr. Geoffrey Musinguzi , the findings are an insight and a call for an in-depth exploration of the drivers that could explain the trends.
“The study tells us that these risk factors are common in the study area and without any intervention, we are likely to see these risk factors going up. Although COVID-19 may change some of the trends due to the strict social distancing and lockdown measures, systematic interventions are needed to reverse the trends.” Musinguzi said.
He noted that Uganda does not have enough resources to treat increasing numbers of cardio vascular diseases.
“From the results, we observed that people in some parishes reported more access to screening than others. Knowledge of one’s risk factor for cardio vascular diseases is a precursor to behaviour change and high blood pressure increases likelihood of an appropriate behaviour,” he says.
“While we look at a once-size-fits-all strategy, we need to know who is exposed to what and then appropriately respond. With these differences in the populations, we need to continue hitting the drum and tell people about the dangers of these diseases.”
Dr.Musinguzi calls for serious investment in preventive measures that target the well-known risk factors.
“We need to raise awareness and tailor the response strategies. This is what we learn from the granular analysis of this cardio vascular disease risk factors study. For example, where we find more people smoking, invest a little more in addressing smoking as a problem. In areas where smoking may not be a big issue but maybe sedentary behaviour is common, focus more on this, say. by increasing campaigns on physical activity and exercising,” he noted.
Dr. Rhoda Wanyenze, the Dean of the School of Public Health underscored the need to prioritise other diseases alongside efforts aimed at fighting Coronavirus .
“We are all consumed with COVID-19 and need to note that cardio vascular diseases are a major risk factor for poor Coronavirus outcomes and the burden with or without COVID is rapidly growing globally and in Africa. We need to keep this high on the agenda,” Dr. Wanyenze said.