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Millwood, VA, May 17, 2013

Millwood, VA – May 17, 2013 – On World Hypertension Day, Project HOPE, a global health education and humanitarian assistance organization, says that education and lifestyle modifications will be critical to reverse the large and growing rate of hypertension in South Africa.

Hypertension is a chronic medical condition in which the blood pressure is elevated.  Many people have hypertension for years without knowing it.  When high blood pressure goes untreated, it damages arteries and vital organs throughout the body.  According to the World Hypertension League hypertension is the biggest single risk factor for death worldwide; it can lead to heart disease, stroke, kidney disease and diabetes.

In South Africa like other nations in Sub-Saharan Africa, one out of every four people has high blood pressure.   One of the biggest drivers of the epidemic is rapid urbanization, where people move into urban centers driven by the need to find work.  As urbanization takes place, people moving into townships no longer have the same access to healthier food options, often having to buy all food consumed.

“Because of economic barriers, healthier food, which is often more expensive, is not purchased; it is replaced by processed food that is high in sugar and salt,” said Stefan Lawson, Project HOPE’s Country Director for South Africa and Director of the HOPE Centre.  “Access to exercise opportunities is also very limited, which is leading to an increase in obesity, hypertension and diabetes.”

To combat the hypertension epidemic as well as other chronic health problems, Project HOPE opened the HOPE Centre clinic in 2012 in Zandspruit, South Africa, an extremely impoverished area near Johannesburg.   For one week per month health care professionals from the HOPE Centre go door to door in the community to screen individuals for hypertension and diabetes.  Patients identified as having an abnormal reading are then encouraged to go to the HOPE Centre clinic to receive treatment.

In August 2013 the HOPE Centre will be launching peer support group programs providing education to hypertensive patients on the disease, lifestyle modification, cooking classes, urban food gardens and exercise classes.

“It is our goal through the introduction of education and lifestyle modification programs at the HOPE Centre that awareness in the community about the health challenges posed by high blood pressure will improve and that individuals will be able to make some real changes in their food choices and lifestyles to promote better health,” said Paul Madden, Project HOPE’s Senior Advisor on Non-communicable diseases.

Since June 2012 the HOPE Centre has screened over 6,000 people for hypertension.  At the HOPE Centre clinic Project HOPE currently has 436 hypertensive patients on treatment that it manages.

World Hypertension Day was established by the World Hypertension League in 2005 to highlight the preventable stroke, heart and kidney diseases caused by high blood pressure and to communicate to the public information on prevention, detection and treatment.  Each year, May 17th is designated World Hypertension Day.

About Project HOPE

Founded in 1958, Project HOPE (Health Opportunities for People Everywhere) is dedicated to providing lasting solutions to health crises, with the mission of helping people to help themselves.  Identifiable to many by the SS HOPE, the world’s first peacetime hospital ship, Project HOPE now conducts land-based medical training and health education programs in more than 35 countries across five continents.

Media Contact

Geraldine Carroll Tel. 540.257.3746 gcarroll@projecthope.org

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