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Expanding Horizons: Healthy Heart Africa Initiative Reaches New Frontiers

AstraZeneca has unveiled a new vision for Healthy Heart Africa, its flagship health equity initiative, to address a wider array of non-communicable diseases (NCDs), such as chronic kidney disease (CKD), hypertension, and cardiovascular disease. The enhanced program will also kick off in Egypt, extending its reach to more patients throughout the continent.

During the 77th World Health Assembly (WHA) at an event co-hosted with the Ministry of Health for Uganda, AstraZeneca revealed that the expanded Healthy Heart Africa program will be active in Côte d’Ivoire, Egypt, Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Nigeria, Rwanda, Senegal, and Uganda by the conclusion of 2025.

Established in 2014, Healthy Heart Africa was created to tackle the growing burden of cardiovascular diseases in Africa. The initiative aims to enhance health outcomes by raising awareness about the symptoms and risks of hypertension, offering health education and access to early screening and treatment, and providing training to healthcare professionals. This helps fortify health systems by alleviating the social and economic strain caused by late-stage treatment and care of cardiovascular and related illnesses.

Over the past decade, the program has conducted over 54 million blood pressure screenings and trained more than 11,400 healthcare workers. By March 2024, the program had achieved its initial goal of reaching 10 million individuals with elevated blood pressure, nearly two years ahead of schedule.

HE Dr. Jean Ruth Aceng Ocero, Minister of Health for The Republic of Uganda, emphasized, “As we tackle the burden of non-communicable diseases in Uganda, which contribute to 36% of deaths and 81,300 annual mortalities, it is essential to strengthen our health systems. With a 21% likelihood of premature mortality from NCDs, resilient health systems are vital for early detection and effective management.”

HE Dr Jean Kaseya, Director-General of the Africa Centres for Disease Control, emphasized the pressing need for comprehensive and coordinated action in response to the increasing burden of non-communicable diseases (NCDs) in Africa. The percentage of NCD-related deaths has risen from 24% in 2000 to 37% in 2019. To address this challenge, the African CDC is prioritizing interventions such as integrating NCD prevention and control into primary healthcare and strengthening multisectoral coordination on NCDs.

Ruud Dobber, Executive Vice President of AstraZeneca’s BioPharmaceuticals Business Unit, highlighted the importance of collaboration between the public and private sectors to tackle the growing burden of NCDs. By working together, they can ensure more equitable and sustainable health outcomes for patients not only in Africa but also beyond. Dobber emphasized the interconnectedness of heart and kidney health and the potential for earlier diagnosis, intervention, and treatment of cardiorenal diseases to prevent life-threatening complications and reduce the economic and environmental impact of these diseases across the continent.

HE Dr Khaled Abdel Ghaffar, Minister of Health and Population for Egypt, acknowledged the link between climate change and noncommunicable diseases like heart and kidney disease. He stressed the urgent need to adapt health systems to address this reality. Egypt is proud to join the Healthy Heart Africa program as part of its commitment to improving the health and well-being of its population. Through the signed Letter of Intent, Egypt aims to enhance CKD public awareness, improve early screening and diagnosis, provide training for healthcare professionals, digitalize CKD healthcare management, and update local management protocols in line with global standards.

During the event, prominent figures in the field of NCD care, including the Ministers of Health for Uganda, Ethiopia, and Egypt, as well as representatives from the Africa CDC, the World Health Organization, PATH, Amref, and patient advocacy groups, made a commitment to address the increasing burden of NCDs in Africa. They emphasized the significance of early detection, evidence-based treatments, and the effective implementation of public-private partnerships like Healthy Heart Africa.

AstraZeneca further demonstrated its dedication to supporting Healthy Heart Africa’s objectives by signing Memorandums of Understanding with the Ministries of Health in Egypt, Uganda, and Ghana. This program aligns with Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 3.4, which aims to reduce premature mortality from NCDs by one third through prevention and treatment by 2030.

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