Hypertension, a major risk factor for heart disease, stroke, and other cardiovascular cases, is a common and serious medical condition that continues to ravage many in Sub-Saharan Africa.
With some studies suggesting that more than 76.2 million Nigerians are affected by hypertension and many more likely to develop the disease, including its attendant complications of paralysis, kidney damage, heart attack, and sudden demise, it is fast becoming a major public health burden.
But a team of medical researchers have been working hard to reverse the trend as much as possible through the Hypertension Treatment in Nigeria Program, a collaborative academic research work between the University of Abuja; Washington University in Saint Louis, USA; and Northwestern University, Chicago, USA, which commenced in 2019 and will end in 2024.
Other collaborators in this study are Federal Ministry of Health of Nigeria; Resolve to Save Lives; World Health Organization, Nigeria; Federal Capital Territory Primary Healthcare Board; and Public Health Department of Federal Capital Development Authority.
The studies, which is ongoing in 60 primary healthcare centers in all the six area councils of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) of Nigeria and has enrolled over 20,000 patients with hypertension to contextualise and evaluate implementation and effectiveness of a system for hypertension care and treatment centered on patient and non-physician healthcare workers.
As part of the researchers’ efforts to deepen their work, Dike Ojji, an associate professor of Preventive Cardiology, University of Abuja and Co-Principal Investigator Hypertension Treatment in Nigeria program, University of Abuja, Nigeria; with his Co-Principal Investigator in the study, Mark Huffman Washington University in St Louis, convoked the Hypertension Treatment in Nigeria policymakers Meeting in Abuja.
Ojji said, “ We set up this major stakeholders’ meeting so that we can all understand the study’s aims, approaches, findings, and implications; understand the study’s progress and share contextual factors that could influence its implementation and integration into the broader Nigerian health system especially the Nigeria Hypertension Control Initiative and Healthy Hearts Africa.”
How Sodium causes Hypertension
Research has established a correlation between increased consumption of sodium with hypertension and increased risk of cardiovascular diseases.
And the Nigeria Sodium Study which is currently ongoing in the Federal Capital Territory of Nigeria, and two other states of Ogun and Kano, has an overall objective of establishing mandatory sodium limits in Nigeria food to reduce hypertension.
According to Ojji, “After first rounds of in-depth interviews and focus group discussions already conducted amongst key stakeholders, and data on retail survey already collected in over 14,000 packaged and unpackaged foods in retail stores, we believe the team is well positioned to initiate meetings with policymakers and key stakeholders on how such data can be translated into policies and eventually implemented.
“We are sure that this would help to improve public health consequences and significantly bring down the risk of cardiovascular disease along with its associated morbidity and mortality in the country.”
Ojji’s partner, Huffman, said communicating key developments in the study was essential to its over all success.
“We have no time to waste,” added Ojji, “Overall, the translation of research on hypertension into policy is critical for improving public health outcomes and reducing the burden of cardiovascular disease.
By implementing evidence-based recommendations and policies, governments and public health organizations can help prevent and manage hypertension and its associated complications, ultimately saving lives and reducing healthcare costs.”
Writing by Daniel Adejo; Editing by Oluwaseyi Ajibade