Tanzania: Alarm Raised Over Heart Disease As 36 Scholars Gather in Tanzania

Dar es Salaam — Thirty six scholars from various countries around the world are convening in Tanzania to ponder on innovative public health tools and strategies that would help address the rising trend of Cardiovascular Diseases (diseases that affect the heart or blood vessels).

Senior academics and public health specialists from Tanzania are teaming up with the scholars, under the Lown Scholars Program, to discuss new ideas and projects for cardiovascular disease prevention worldwide. They have been hosted by Muhimbili University of Health and Allied Health Sciences (Muhas).

The development comes at a time when policymakers and health stakeholders set to gather in the capital Dodoma next month for the launching of a five-year Non-Communicable Diseases (NCDs) Action Plan (2020-2025), as heart disease tops the list among causes of death.

Current data show NCDs are steadily increasing in Tanzania with an estimated prevalence of hypertension (high blood pressure) up to 35 per cent, diabetes 8 per cent, overweight and obesity 26 percent as well as 27.5 percent of young males who smoke cigarettes.

The Lown Scholars, whose dedication to curbing cardiovascular diseases is inspired by a renowned American cardiologist and activist Dr Bernard Lown.

Dr Lown's success in medicine is key and would be used to redefine practices even today, said Dr John Rohde, a former Lown Scholar and Visiting Professor, as he delivered a keynote speech during the meeting.

"Optimism and good humour are critical to his success. Reduce stress, educate, minimize procedures, avoid surgery if possible, develop new intervention's based on sound evidence. These principles apply not only to individual patients but also to community action on cardiovascular disease," said Dr Rohde.

Dr Lown's program is advocating a patient-cantered approach to cardiac care. Muhas' Vice Chancellor Prof Andrea Pembe said, as he officiated the meeting, that Tanzania stands to gain from taking up the models of healthcare from Lown's program.

"... Lown Community Health Centres [... ] could be the best model for countries like Tanzania on the prevention and care of CVD. I hope you will be able to establish a pilot centre in Tanzania that could be up-scaled in the future," suggested Prof Pembe.

A research officer from the East African Center of Excellence in Cardiovascular sciences, Dr Fredirick Mashili, told The Citizen that the meeting of scholars would help local experts to learn the challenges faced by other developing countries in the fight against CVDs.

This, he noted, would help in "working [out] strategies by learning from others who have successfully done it." "The network will facilitate the fight against CVDs," said Dr Mashili who is among the 4 Tanzanian Lown scholars.

A heart disease specialist from Muhas Dr Pilly Chillo said researchers would leverage the meeting to benchmark what other countries are doing on Cardiovascular Diseases research, especially on prevention.

"This is in addition to what we already know but in a global context," said Dr Chillo, one of the Lown scholars.

The scholars are meeting in Tanzania for the first time--and are part of a global network of 61 health professionals from 21 countries.

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