Heart disease is the deadliest chronic disease in the world. Rapid urbanization in low- and middle-income countries is a contributing factor – migration from rural to urban areas is associated with increased blood pressure, the leading cause of heart disease. Healthcare services in these growing cities are struggling, and are swamped with ongoing challenges like infectious diseases. They have limited time or resources to tackle chronic diseases like high blood pressure, which are often without symptoms early on, yet can cause long-term damage.
In recognition of World Heart Day 2016, the Novartis Foundation is proud to be making progress against hypertension in urban areas with two programs – both of which aim to bring hypertension detection and management closer to patients to improve health outcomes and blood pressure control levels in urban settings in a way that is sustainable at scale.
Ho Chi Minh City Communities for Healthy Hearts program in Vietnam
Earlier this year, the Novartis Foundation launched a hypertension management program in Vietnam, called “Communities for Healthy Hearts.” It is designed to improve the health of adults with high blood pressure living in low-income households in four districts in Ho Chi Minh City province, Vietnam’s largest urban area. The Novartis Foundation is collaborating with global nonprofit PATH, local partners and government agencies in Vietnam.
The Ho Chi Minh City program leverages the collective expertise of its partners to create an innovative healthcare model adapted to the needs of low-income patients. It uses an awareness campaign to create a sense of urgency to generate demand and encourage people to take action; strengthens treatment and referral services by collaborating with the public and private health sectors, as well as the local community; partners with social enterprises to improve blood pressure screening; and leverages technology to help patients with high blood pressure manage their disease and adhere to their therapy.
Com-HIP in Ghana
In 2015, the Novartis Foundation launched the Community-based Hypertension Improvement Project (Com-HIP) in Ghana. Com-HIP is a unique healthcare model that marries public-private partnerships and technology to strengthen existing community-based healthcare services. It drives patient education, linking community members with the private sector, health workers and public health system to increase knowledge, awareness, screening and self-management of the disease.
Digital tools are used to strengthen the linkages between health providers and empower patients. Key components of the intervention include blood pressure screening in the community, ongoing management of hypertensive clients by community-based nurses, blood pressure monitoring and management by licensed chemical sellers, and supportive messaging through SMS/voice messages.
Com-HIP is being implemented by FHI 360, a nonprofit human development organization, the Ghana Health Service, the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, VOTO Mobile and many local partners.
Making a difference on the ground – real people, real stories
While implementing programs is critically important, the real test is what kind of impact they can have. Though both programs may have only been running for a short time, they are already beginning to have an impact on people on the ground – patients and healthcare workers alike.
Gladys lives in Oborpah, Ghana with her two young children. Like 1 in 4 adults in Ghana, Gladys suffers from hypertension. But only 4% of these have their blood pressure under control. The Com-HIP project is helping Gladys to receive the care that she needs to stay healthy and manage her condition. Watch her story.
Dinyo Charles works as a nurse in Ghana, specializing in cardiovascular diseases. He is proud of his work, and he is committed to making sure members of the community are receiving the information, education and interventions they need to lead healthy lives. Watch his story.
Dorothy Akusika Kweku works as a Licensed Chemical Seller in Ghana, selling over the counter drugs to the community. As part of Com-HIP, she regularly tests her clients for hypertension when they visit her business. Watch her story.
Dr. Christian Kwatchey and Dr. Irene Ofei are seeing first-hand how the problem of hypertension is growing in Ghana. Yet there is still a substantial lack of awareness, and patients are not yet taking it as seriously as they should – which Com-HIP is hoping to help change. Watch their story.