In a shocking report, the World Health Organisation revealed that four out of every people with hypertension are not receiving adequate treatment. However, it also offers a ray of hope by emphasizing that if countries can expand their coverage, an estimated 76 million deaths could be averted between 2023 and 2050.
In its first report on the worldwide consequences of high blood pressure, The WHO sounds a call to action to combat this silent killer. Hypertension, which affects 1 in 3 adults globally, is a common yet deadly condition that leads to a range of severe health issues, including stroke, heart attack, heart failure, and kidney damage.
Over the past three decades, the number of people living with hypertension has doubled, reaching a staggering 1.3 billion by 2019. Alarmingly, nearly half of those affected are unaware of their condition, with more than three-quarters residing in low- and middle-income countries.
While factors such as genetics and age can increase the risk of hypertension, modifiable factors like high-salt diets, physical inactivity, and excessive alcohol consumption play a significant role.
COST-EFFECTIVE HEALTHCARE INTERVENTIONS
The report underscores the importance of lifestyle changes, including healthier diets, tobacco cessation, and increased physical activity, in managing blood pressure. Some individuals may also require medication to effectively control hypertension and prevent related complications.
Effective prevention, early detection, and management of blood pressure are among the most cost-effective healthcare interventions. The economic benefits of improved hypertension treatment programs outweigh the costs by approximately 18 to 1.
Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO Director-General, highlighted that hypertension can be controlled effectively with simple, low-cost medication regimens. However, only about one in five people with hypertension have it under control. He called for the prioritization of control programs in every country’s journey towards universal health coverage.
The report’s release coincides with the 78th Session of the United Nations General Assembly, emphasizing the importance of addressing hypertension to progress towards global health goals.
Scaling up blood pressure treatment to levels observed in high-performing countries could prevent a staggering 76 million deaths, 120 million strokes, 79 million heart attacks, and 17 million cases of heart failure by 2050.
Michael R. Bloomberg, WHO Global Ambassador for Noncommunicable Diseases and Injuries, emphasized the preventable nature of heart attacks and strokes through affordable and accessible medications and interventions. Treating through primary healthcare can save lives and billions of dollars annually.
The report highlights that hypertension can be effectively treated with safe, widely available, low-cost generic medications using programs like HEARTS. WHO’s HEARTS technical package and guidelines for pharmacological hypertension treatment in adults provide practical steps for delivering effective care.
Furthermore, effective blood pressure management can be achieved across countries of all income levels. Over 40 low- and middle-income countries have improved hypertension care with the HEARTS package, enrolling millions into treatment programs. Countries like Canada and South Korea have achieved over 50% blood pressure control in adults with hypertension through national programs.
The report underscores the importance of implementing WHO-recommended effective hypertension care, including practical treatment protocols, medication and equipment supply, team-based care, patient-cantered services, and streamlined information systems. The goal is to save lives by ensuring that the care is not just within reach but reached worldwide.