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Engaging Religious Leaders to Reduce Hypertension in Tanzania: A First Step

The Research and Training Program Manager at the Center for Global Health, Ms. Megan Urry, MPH, traveled to our affiliate site in Mwanza, Tanzania this February to support the pilot testing of a training that aims to engage highly respected religious leaders in blood pressure screening and awareness, with the intent to lower the prevalence of hypertension in Tanzanian communities.

All participants in February’s blood pressure training, including investigators and religious leaders, at Mwanza Christian College.

All participants in February’s blood pressure training, including investigators and religious leaders, at Mwanza Christian College. 

From left to right, beginning in back row:

Back row: Jennifer Downs, Evarist Laizer, Louise Walsh, Cody Chichowitz, Aneth Nzali, Megan Urry

Front row: Boniphace Mungo, Malick Lusana, Edson Okido, Ndalloh Paul, Hidaya Yahaya, Nelusigwe Mwakisole, Robert Peck, Agrey Mwakisole

Religious leaders in the study will be trained to educate about blood pressure, perform blood pressure screenings, and provide basic counseling and referral to community members. The training, which is a central focus of an interventional study led by co-principal investigators Drs. Jennifer Downs and Robert Peck, addresses the disparities of awareness and treatment for hypertension in rural communities of Tanzania.

The study is being conducted in partnership with the Mwanza Intervention Trials Unit (MITU) and Weill Bugando School of Medicine in Mwanza. Drs. Downs and Peck have a history of successful collaborations and strong partnerships with Tanzanian faculty and institutes that makes possible a community-based project like this one.  

Dr. Edson Okido and Malick Lusana practicing determining cuff size and using the blood pressure machine.

Dr. Edson Okido and Malick Lusana practicing determining cuff size and using the blood pressure machine. 

Several MITU and Bugando faculty and staff advised the development of the training and health education curriculum. During this trip to Mwanza, Ms. Urry and Drs Peck and Downs met with these stakeholders as well as prominent religious leaders to further adapt the curriculum and pilot test the practical portions of the curriculum among a small group of religious leaders. The group was trained on how to properly perform blood pressure screening and to provide basic hypertension counseling, and they found the training to be both feasible and acceptable.

Next steps in the study include implementing feedback received during these meetings in order to further develop the curriculum content, and translation of training materials. The curriculum and accompanying training will later be implemented in 20 communities across Tanzania via a cluster randomized trial. The accompanying photos are from our pilot test training among a small group of religious leaders at Mwanza Christian College from earlier this month.

Ndalloh Paul, RN, screening a student’s blood pressure.

Ndalloh Paul, RN, screening a student’s blood pressure. 

Weill Cornell Medicine Center for Global Health 402 East 67th Street, 2nd Floor New York, NY 10065 Phone: (646) 962-8140 Fax: (646) 962-0285