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Despite $216 million investment, 80% of people with hypertension are not treated

Despite investing $216 million to support countries to strengthen hypertension care at primary health care level, approximately 80 percent or 4 out of every 5 people with the disease are not adequately treated.

The World Health Organisation releasing its first-ever report on the devastating global impact of high blood pressure said the number of people living with hypertension doubled between 1990 and 2019, from 650 million to 1.3 billion.

It stated that nearly half of people with hypertension globally are currently unaware of their condition, while more than three-quarters of adults with hypertension live in low- and middle-income countries.

However, about 76 million deaths, 120 million strokes, 79 million heart attacks, and 17 million cases of heart failure could be averted by 2050, if countries can scale up coverage, WHO said.

Michael Bloomberg, WHO global ambassador for non-communicable diseases and injuries said “Most heart attacks and strokes in the world today can be prevented with affordable, safe, accessible medicines and other interventions, such as sodium reduction. Treating hypertension through primary health care will save lives and billions of dollars a year.”

Bloomberg, founder of Bloomberg LP and Bloomberg Philanthropies has invested a total investment of $216 million since 2017 to continue preventing deaths from heart disease.

Bloomberg Philanthropies’ investments in public health include major, life-saving initiatives to reduce tobacco and youth e-cigarette use through $1.58 billion in funding.

It has also supported healthy food policy, reduced drowning, and improved road safety and maternal health.

In July 2022, the philanthropist invested an additional $115 million into its Cardiovascular Health initiative, bringing its total investment to $216 million since 2017.

According to WHO, hypertension affects one in three adults worldwide. This common, deadly condition leads to stroke, heart attack, heart failure, kidney damage and many other health problems.

Older age and genetics can increase the risk of having high blood pressure, but modifiable risk factors such as eating a high-salt diet, not being physically active, and drinking too much alcohol can also increase the risk of hypertension, the global health body explained.

Read also: How governance-induced poverty, hardship increase hypertension cases in Nigeria

“Lifestyle changes like eating a healthier diet, quitting tobacco and being more active can help lower blood pressure. Some people may need medicines that can control hypertension effectively and prevent related complications,” WHO stated.

The prevention, early detection and effective management of hypertension are among the most cost-effective interventions in health care and should be prioritized by countries as part of their national health benefit package offered at a primary care level. The economic benefits of improved hypertension treat­ment programmes outweigh the costs by about 18 to 1.

“Hypertension can be controlled effectively with simple, low-cost medication regimens, and yet only about one in five people with hypertension have controlled it.” Tedros Ghebreyesus, WHO Director-General said.

“Hypertension control programmes remain neglected, under-prioritized and vastly underfunded. Strengthening hypertension control must be part of every country’s journey towards universal health coverage, based on well-functioning, equitable and resilient health systems, built on a foundation of primary health care.”

The report is being launched during the 78th Session of the United Nations General Assembly which addresses progress for the Sustainable Development Goals including health goals on pandemic preparedness and response, ending tuberculosis, and attaining Universal Health Coverage. Better prevention and control of hypertension will be essential to progress in all of these.


Hypertension can easily be treated with safe, widely available, low-cost generic medications using programmes such as HEARTS.

WHO’s HEARTS technical package for cardiovascular disease management in primary health care and the Guideline for the pharmacological treatment of hypertension in adults provide proven and practical steps to deliver effective hypertension care in primary health care settings.

Effective community- and country-wide blood pressure management can be achieved in countries of all income levels.

More than 40 low- and middle-income countries, including Bangladesh, Cuba, India and Sri Lanka, have strengthened their hypertension care with the HEARTS package, enrolling more than 17 million people into treatment programmes. Countries such as Canada and South Korea delivered comprehensive national hypertension treatment programmes, and both countries surpassed the 50 percent mark for blood pressure control in adults living with hypertension.

Sustained, systematic national hypertension control programmes can succeed—and a high level of blood pressure control translates into fewer strokes and heart attacks, and longer, healthier lives.