The World Health Organisation South-East Asia Region has reiterated its commitment to support all countries, including Nepal, in this region to reduce premature mortality due to non-communicable diseases by one third by 2030 – the Sustainable Development Goal target – and to engage and empower people of all ages to live longer, healthier lives.

On the occasion of the World Hypertension Day, the New Delhi-based WHO Regional Office for South-East Asia said this region was accelerating action to prevent, detect and control hypertension, which affects an estimated 1.28 billion people globally, two thirds of them in low- and middle-income countries. According to WHO, an estimated 46 per cent of people with hypertension globally are unaware that they have the condition, and less than half of all adults with hypertension are diagnosed and treated.

"Just one in five adults with hypertension have it under control, meaning 80 per cent are at significant risk of complications, including heart attack, stroke, irregular heart-beat and kidney damage. In 2015, a quarter of all adults in the region had hypertension, and in most parts of the region, less than 50 per cent of people with hypertension are on treatment, indicating an urgent need to scale up hypertension services, especially at the primary health care level," said Dr Poonam Khetrapal Singh, WHO regional director for South-East Asia, in a press release issued today.

The theme of this year's World Hypertension Day is 'Measure your blood pressure, control it, live longer' which highlights the need to increase awareness and access for all people in the region to quality hypertension services.

Nine countries in the region have made targeted interventions to improve care pathways at the primary level, as per the WHO Package of Essential NCD Interventions for primary health care.

Sri Lanka, Nepal and Bhutan have in recent years piloted innovative PHC-focused care models in several districts and areas, while India has significantly expanded population-based screening, which now covers more than 600 districts, with more than 110 million people screened since June 2021.

As per Dr Kshetrapal, the region has four priority areas of action against hypertension. One of them is reducing modifiable risk factors.

Unhealthy diets that include excessive salt and fat, and which lack adequate fruit and vegetables, are a major cause of hypertension, as is inadequate physical activity and consumption of tobacco and alcohol.

In Nepal, hypertension is prevalent in 17.0 per cent women and 23.0 per cent men aged 15 and above. In the age group of 55-59 years, 32.0 per cent of women and 36 per cent of men have hypertension, according to WHO statistics.

A version of this article appears in the print on May 18, 2022, of The Himalayan Times.