Monday, 26 October 2015
Cardiovascular disease (CVD) causes nearly one-third of all deaths worldwide – and is a rising threat in sub-Saharan Africa1. The dangerous momentum of CVD is fueled by a hidden risk factor, hypertension, which affects 46% of adult Africans2.
This global challenge has been hugely under-prioritised, leaving health systems, doctors, nurses and other health professionals in resource-limited settings ill-equipped to respond, placing many more lives at risk as a result.
At AstraZeneca, we realized this situation entailed both an opportunity – and a responsibility – to confront this disease by deploying the combined power of our science, research and business capabilities.
Last year, we launched Healthy Heart Africa (HHA), an innovative new public partnership with an ambitious goal to tackle hypertension and the increasing burden of cardiovascular disease, beginning with five demonstration projects in Kenya. Ultimately, HHA aspires to reach 10 million hypertensive patients across sub-Saharan Africa by 2025. It’s something that we are really excited about at AstraZeneca.
At its core, our approach aims to put patients first, by bringing together many different elements – from health system strengthening and clinical training to R&D and shoring up supply chains – to fundamentally address the burden of disease. Our commitment to monitor and evaluate where we are making progress, and where we need to make real-time improvements in order to achieve the substantial, but achievable, long-term objectives.
This week, I had the privilege to travel to Kenya to see AZ and its partners at work in person. Seeing the challenges from the front lines of the fight against heart disease has been a galvanizing and thought-provoking experience. From Eldoret in Western Kenya to Kibera in Nairobi, I gained newfound appreciation for the scale of the challenge.
By far the most inspirational aspect of my travels was seeing how patients have benefited directly from the initiative. The impact is real, and it is powerful. The programme has screened almost over 800, 000 people, and helped to identify high blood pressure in over 150, 000 Kenyans3. The challenge now is to continue to work with our partners to help treat and manage the condition for hundreds of thousands more.
This is why Healthy Heart Africa is so important – not only to help those in the first five demonstration project areas by integrating hypertension care into existing health platforms, but also by identifying opportunities to scale up the most successful components across Kenya, and ultimately to other countries in Africa.
In order to make this happen, HHA’s programme partners have trained more than 2, 000 front-line healthcare workers4, who deliver education, screening, care and treatment. I met many of these trainers this week.
One thing that really excited me is that the program is also generating robust epidemiological data, including a first-ever baseline study of hypertension awareness levels, and screening and treatment behaviors at households and health facilities. We believe that this data will also be incredibly helpful to researchers and clinicians across the continent—in addition to helping to inform the global policy debate about how best to address the burden of chronic diseases in developing countries.
Healthy Heart Africa brings together many different elements of our strategy as a company, enabling us to maximize the value of products from the older part of our portfolio. At the same time, we are learning about the many barriers to access encountered by low and middle-income patients in a country like Kenya.
I’m honored to have had the opportunity to represent AstraZeneca in Kenya, and to report back about the incredible reception I’ve received when people learn who I work for, and what we’re trying to accomplish together with our partners and the Kenyan government. Thanks to all of our efforts, people are being screened and treated for hypertension for the very first time in their lives.
That is a very powerful feeling, one that should give everyone at our company a real sense of pride that we are doing the right thing.
- World Health Organization. (2015). Cardiovascular disease (CVDs). Available from http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs317/en/
- World Health Organization. (n.d.). Raised blood pressure: situation and trends. Available from http://www.who.int/gho/ncd/risk_factors/blood_pressure_prevalence_text/en/
- AstraZeneca. (2015). Healthy Heart Africa – Patient Pathway Data [table].
- AstraZeneca. (2015). Healthy Heart Africa – Training [table].
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6000. Fax: +27 (0) 11 797-6001. www.astrazeneca.com. Expiry Date: October 2017. Activity ID: 728047