A Proactive Approach to Mitigating Cardiovascular Disease

15 septiembre, 2011

Voices from the Field

By Dr. Osvaldo Sosa, Health and Human Development Manager, Pro Mujer in Argentina (PMA)

In mid-May, we launched a four-month long campaign with the aim of developing a better understanding of the health-related challenges our clients face and providing screenings for cardiovascular diseases. The goal of this campaign, which was implemented in our 15 community centers, was to mitigate our clients’ risk factors, help them improve their quality of life and foster self-sufficiency.

According to the latest study on risk factors from Argentina’s Department of Health, high blood pressure is the primary cause behind 62% of strokes and 49% of incidents of coronary disease in this country. This data shows that high levels of cholesterol are responsible for 59% of incidents of heart disease. Diabetes raises this number by 15% and further explains 13% of chronic dialysis cases.

Non-communicable diseases i.e. hypertension, diabetes, cancers, etc. can be prevented by controlling these risk factors. Focusing our efforts on cardiovascular diseases (the second leading cause of shortened life span among women in Argentina) constitutes the most cost-effective and advantageous strategy for prevention. These diseases make up 60% of the burden on the state health care system.

With this in mind, we monitored three key risk factors associated with these diseases – blood pressure, glycemia, and height and weight (Body Mass Index or BMI). During the first 45 days of this health initiative, we conducted more than 1,000 screenings for approximately 8% of current PMA clients. Initial BMI results show that:

  • 42% of clients are obese (BMI>30)
  • 32% of clients are overweight (BMI between 25 and 30)
  • Only 26% of clients have a normal height/weight ratio (BMI <25).

Thirteen percent of our clients were found to have high blood pressure and 16% have above-average glycemic indices.

If we combine these risk factors, we can see that 5% of clients are at high-risk (three high-risk factors), 17% of clients are at medium risk (two high-risk factors) and 53% of clients are at low-risk (they have one high-risk factor).

As a result of these findings, we have begun working on a preventive health education program to promote healthy eating and lifestyle choices, and it has been well-received by our clients. In the medium-term, our goal is to reduce these high-risk factors, while our long-term objective is to make a positive impact on the quality of life of our clients and their families.

At the very least, our goal is to help those in the high-risk group to reduce their risk factors, and allow them to move into the medium-risk group, meaning that some of those measured would end up in the normal range.

The activities realized with this group include:  

  • Provide incentives for clients to receive medical consultations and periodic monitoring for high-risk cases
  • Complement the work of Credit Officers and Wellness Promoters by having health consultants present at Pro Mujer community centers
  • Share recipes and recommendations for healthy eating
  • Train clients on how to perform self-breast exams and take blood pressure measurements at home, among other practices

All of these activities are being standardized, and along with the Pap and breast exam campaigns, we hope to see improvements in client health indicators by the end of 2011. This will allow us to develop more strategic initiatives in 2012 to improve the health of our clients and their families, and in this way improve their quality of life.