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Ethn Dis. 1993;3 Suppl:S38-45.

Community-based high blood pressure programs in sub-Saharan Africa.

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  • 1Department of Medicine, School of Medicine, University of Zambia, Lusaka.


We studied residents of urban and rural areas of Ghana from 1972 through 1987 to evaluate the health burden of cardiovascular diseases, especially high blood pressure, in these African communities. Among urban adults, the prevalence of hypertension was 8% to 13%, compared to only 4.5% among rural adults. Overall, rates were higher among men than among women. However, the rate of hypertension was the same for men and women over 40 years old. The prevalence of hypertension was 29% for persons aged 35 and older, compared to 3.9% for persons under 35 years of age. Of the 24% of the study participants who were aware of their hypertension status, only a third were undergoing treatment, and only half of those were receiving adequate treatment. The determinants of hypertension include age, family history, body mass index, parity, and alcohol use. On a continent where over 80% of the health budget is spent on communicable diseases such as malaria, this study represents one of the few early attempts to understand the magnitude of the health burden of noncommunicable diseases in Africa.

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