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Health Policy Plan. 2001 Dec;16(4):345-50.

A template for improved prevention and control of cardiovascular disease in sub-Saharan Africa.

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  • 1Medical Research Council Laboratories, Fajara, The Gambia.


Cardiovascular disease (CVD) is rapidly becoming an important public health problem in sub-Saharan Africa, yet the response so far is often minimal and inadequate. While there is, undoubtedly, a 'double burden of disease' (persisting infectious diseases co-existing with emerging non-communicable disease), this is hardly reflected in current health planning, possibly due to a limited appreciation of the changing pattern of CVD and CVD risk factor exposure. In a situation where there are also considerable budget constraints and well-established infectious disease priorities, it is difficult to implement effective interventions for prevention or treatment of CVD. Yet such planning is urgently needed and a template for a comprehensive programme, adaptable to local situations, is presented here. The first step is to raise awareness and create evidence-based commitment among policy-makers, which could lead to the establishment of a multi-sectoral CVD unit at national level. Programmes need to focus on prevention of modifiable risk factors at population level, involving a wide range of institutions and individuals. Recommended strategies include decentralizing the design and implementation of programmes, with appropriate standardized surveillance of major risk factors, all complemented by operational, epidemiological and basic research.

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