Engaging Religious Leaders to Reduce Blood Pressures in Tanzanian communities
High blood pressure causes most early deaths not only in Tanzania but also worldwide. Studies conducted in Mwanza show that 7 out of 25 adults aged at least 35 years have a blood pressure (BP) that is above the normal level (hypertension), but only 2 in 10 adults are aware. Our research has also shown that even when health facilities are able to deal with patients with a high BP, many Tanzanians do not visit health facilities to check their BP or for treatment.
We have found out this is because of various reasons including that many people do not see the need to check their BP, have unhealthy views about diet and exercise, and religious beliefs. During the past 10 years, MITU researchers have discovered that religious leaders are effective partners when it comes to health promotion. Building upon this community-based platform of partnering with religious leaders as trusted community messengers, we are now conducting a research study to see if working with religious leaders can help to reduce the average BP in their communities.
After adapting and pilot-testing a Religious Engagement in Health Intervention to address high BP, we will determine the effectiveness of this intervention on reducing community BP and we will measure the intervention’s reach, effectiveness, adoption, implementation, and maintenance.
This is a cluster randomized trial conducted in 20 rural communities in northwestern Tanzania. Intervention communities (N=10) will receive the Religious Engagement in Health Intervention for BP that includes three evidence-based components: (1) educational sessions for Christian and Muslim leaders on religious teachings and medical aspects of blood pressure, (2) equipping religious leaders to provide BP teaching in their communities using knowledge learned from educational sessions and through longitudinal mentorship meetings, and (3) community BP screening organized by religious leaders in partnership with local health care workers, and referrals for clinical care as needed. Before the implementation of the intervention, the mean community BP will be estimated in a survey of 400 randomly selected adult community members (aged 35 years or above) in each community. Follow-up surveys will be conducted 12 months and 24 months after the intervention.
MITU, Tanzania/London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine (LSHTM), UK: Saidi Kapiga, Heiner Grosskurth, Philip Ayieko; MITU, Tanzania: Elialilia Okello, Godfrey Kisigo; Mwanza Christian College, Tanzania: Agrey Mwakisole; Bugando Medical Centre, Tanzania: Fredrick Kalokola; Weill Cornell Medical College, NY, USA: Radhika Sundararajan, Louise Walshe, Myung Hee