BusinessDay

AstraZeneca plans to expand healthcare access to 10 African countries

AstraZeneca said its perfecting plans to expand access to healthcare in 10 new African countries starting from 2023 through its Healthy Heart Africa (HHA) programme.

The countries include Burkina Faso, the Central African Republic, The Gambia, Madagascar, Malawi, Morocco, Mozambique, Sierra Leone, Zambia, and Zimbabwe.

According to the company, the expansion will be carried out in partnership with the Africa Christian Health Associations Platform (ACHAP) and PATH, and both will implement the programme in five countries each over the next two years.

Also, the expansion will contribute to HHA’s ambition to reach 10 million people with elevated blood pressure across Africa by 2025.

Before now, the HHA programme has been running in Kenya, Ethiopia, Tanzania (including Zanzibar), Ghana, Uganda, Côte d’Ivoire, Senegal, Rwanda, and Nigeria.

Ashling Mulvaney, vice president of Global Sustainability, Access to Healthcare, AstraZeneca said the company believes in leveraging the power of partnerships to provide equitable and affordable access to life-changing treatments for people, especially in low and middle-income countries (LMICs).

“This expansion will increase our contribution to halting and reversing the prevalence of cardiovascular diseases in Africa. HHA has made a significant impact in supporting cardiovascular healthcare on the continent, as shown by our screening data and the number of healthcare workers trained to date,” Mulvaney said.

Mulvaney however said the HHA programme has been recognised again by the 2022 Access to Medicine Index, as a Best Practice for its role in contributing to access to affordable healthcare in Africa.

Nkatha Njeru, coordinator and chief executive officer of ACHAP said that as one of the current implementing partners for HHA in Africa, it has seen the impact being made at a community level because the programme integrates into existing healthcare systems to provide blood pressure screening and other related services.

“We are able to boost preventive healthcare for hypertension. The level of integration into existing health services will increase under this new expansion model, offering economies of scale and avoiding duplication. Through community-based interventions and routine screening for blood pressure for all who walk through the activated facilities, we are able to identify cases of elevated blood pressure and refer them for diagnosis,” Njeru said.

Helen McGuire, Global Programme Leader of non-communicable diseases at PATH said: “The approach of HHA to leverage investments in other areas of health to reach people living with co – and multi-morbidities is a practical example of what is needed going forward in global health.

McGuire said that PATH is active in the five new HHA countries working across global health priorities and will leverage the work to reach many more people at risk for hypertension.

Healthy Heart Africa, which is in nine countries, is designed to contribute to the prevention and control of hypertension and decrease the burden of cardiovascular diseases (CVDs) across Africa.

According to the World Heart Federation, in 2019, sub-Saharan Africa accounted for one million deaths from CVDs or 5.4 percent of all CVD-related deaths worldwide and 13 percent of all deaths in Africa.

Hypertension, commonly known as high blood pressure, is the most important modifiable risk factor for cardiovascular diseases.

Also, the World Health Organization (WHO) indicates that the African region has the highest prevalence of hypertension at 27 percent, demonstrating the need for prevention and management interventions.

In 2011, the United Nations set a goal to reduce the risk of premature deaths from non-communicable diseases by 25 percent by the year 2025.

Healthy Heart Africa contributes to strengthening health systems by working in partnership with local stakeholders to provide services such as free blood pressure screening, educating and creating awareness about cardiovascular diseases and their risk factors, providing blood pressure screening equipment and training healthcare workers on guidelines to improve the quality of care.

Since 2014, the programme has conducted over 30.5 million blood pressure screenings and trained more than 9,900 healthcare workers.