Can cardiovascular disease (CVD) prevention be entertaining, fun and educational? If you ask attendees of FHI 360’s community CVD prevention events, you’ll hear a resounding “Yes!” An inaugural event, held on May 26th, took place in the barracks of the Police Hospital in Accra, Ghana. The program offered women, men and children an afternoon of upbeat music, dancing, cooking demonstrations and energizing aerobics exercises.
Several community events are offered within FHI 360’s pilot cardiovascular disease prevention, screening and referral program. The facility-based screening program was launched in August 2011 in partnership with the Ghana Health Service and the Ghana Police Service, and focuses on the communities surrounding the Police Hospital in Accra, the capital, and Atua Hospital, a semi-rural district in Ghana. Through the facilities, we have screened approximately 14,000 clients so far. Our preliminary results indicate that in Atua Hospital, 55 percent of those screened were either pre-hypertensive or hypertensive. In the Police Hospital, 75 percent of clients were either pre-hypertensive or hypertensive. We have also found that the proportion of overweight or obese clients was 48 percent in Atua Hospital and 59 percent in the Police Hospital.
In order to strengthen prevention activities – and address the high prevalence of CVD risk factors in the pilot communities – we recently complemented the facility intervention with a community-based behavior change campaign to promote healthy lifestyles. The campaign targets female heads of households. The slogan, “from your heart to theirs,” reinforces the position of women as the primary decision makers on what the family eats as well as their health-seeking behaviors.
The central component of the community campaign lies in monthly community events, which provide a range of entertainment and educational activities. During the first event in May, physical activity was promoted through music, dancing and group aerobics instruction from a professional trainer. Cooking demonstrations and taste testing were led by a local celebrity, Akorfa Edzeani-Asiedu, to promote a reduction in salt, unhealthy fats and oils, sugar and alcohol. Additionally, health care workers were on hand to screen 125 attendees for behavioral and biomedical CVD risk factors. Prevention counseling was provided and referrals were made as necessary. Additionally, health care workers were on hand to screen 125 attendees for behavioral and biomedical CVD risk factors. Prevention counseling was provided and referrals were made as necessary. The positive response to this initial event is an encouraging sign that these educational social gatherings can engage communities in making healthy lifestyle changes.
“We are learning a lot. This program is very good for us. We will try to eat healthy and stay active so that as Policemen, we will be healthy enough to maintain security and protect life and property in this country” Police Constable Ofei, Cantonments Police Barracks, Accra.
- FHI 360 NCD Quiz
- Lamptey P, Merson M, Piot P, Reddy KS, Dirks R. Informing the 2011 UN session on non-communicable diseases: applying lessons from the AIDS response PLoS Medicine. 2011;8(9):e1001086.
- Institute of Medicine. Promoting cardiovascular health in the developing world: a critical challenge to achieve global health (report brief).Washington, DC: IOM; 2010.