Karachi: Aga Khan University’s Department of Community Health Sciences and its international collaborators have received grant to study ways to lower hypertension among adults living in rural South Asia.
The study is funded by the Joint Global Health Trials Scheme, a partnership of the UK Department for International Development (DFID), Medical Research Council and Welcome Trust, which aims to generate new knowledge about interventions to improve health in low and middle income countries that can be quickly implemented.
According to sources, the study will test low-cost strategies by health workers and doctors to lower blood pressure among adults and reduce their risk of heart disease in three key countries – Bangladesh, Pakistan and Sri Lanka, in South Asia. The trial, called COBRA-BPS (Control of Blood Pressure and Risk Attenuation in Bangladesh, Pakistan and Sri Lanka) led by principal investigator Prof Tazeen Jafar from the Duke-National University of Singapore Graduate Medical School, will study 2,500 individuals in 30 rural communities in the three countries during a period of three years.
The strategies being evaluated under the COBRA-BPS trial are likely to offer sustainable and low cost solutions for effective blood pressure lowering that can be integrated in the public healthcare systems in Pakistan and other South Asian countries for saving millions of lives, Prof Jafar said, adding non-communicable diseases such as diabetes, cancer, heart diseases among others, account for more than half of all deaths worldwide.
Hypertension or high blood pressure has reached epidemic proportions in Pakistan, affecting one in three adults 45 years or older, said Dr Imtiaz Jehan, the principal investigator of the study in Pakistan and an associate professor at AKU’s Department of Community Health Sciences. The study strategies were said to include providing education in patients’ homes about lowering their blood pressure through diet and exercise, improving referrals to trained doctors using simple checklists, training doctors and nurses in the management of hypertension, including the use of low-cost medicines, and having special counters at health clinics to provide tailored assistance for patients with high blood pressure.
This growing epidemic is a particular problem in South Asia, where people tend to get heart disease at a younger age, causing a greater loss of productive years of life with serious economic consequences for countries in the region. Bangladesh, Pakistan and Sri Lanka have recently prioritized action on tackling non-communicable diseases,
The findings from this multi-country trial are likely to inform much needed policy action on hypertension management in Pakistan.