In 2018, scientists from Wits University revealed that approximately 54% of South Africans have hypertension, and this is the highest percentage recorded in Southern Africa. They also included that majority of these hypertensive individuals do not have their high BP controlled.
There are many ways to reduce the hypertension rate, one of the most important and effective ways is awareness/education. Others include adherence to treatment, adopting a healthy lifestyle and monthly check-ups. In South Africa there is a lack of all prevention methods, according to research approximately 56% of South Africans are aware of what is hypertension, preventative measures and their BP status, and 33% have their hypertension controlled. Why are the numbers so low?
Poor socio-economic status
The poor socio-economic environment in South Africa has led to the lack of lifestyle diseases awareness (as well as communicable). Through education people are empowered, they have knowledge and can mitigate situations that can lead them to developing lifestyle diseases, such as hypertension. Living in a poor economic environment can lead to stress, long hours of working (this includes travelling to and from work), unhealthy diet, and a poor outlook on exercise due to poor mental health.
What is the solution?
South Africa has a poor healthcare system, and this is due to a shortage of healthcare workers. Apart from treating illnesses, people should know what is wrong with them, and this is accomplished through awareness, and South Africa is falling short due to a shortage of healthcare workers. Our government should other ways to reach out to people and raise awareness about hypertension. There is an exponential growth of social media use in South Africa. According to an article on Flicker leap, 23 million South Africans use social media, and 49% use WhatsApp messenger.
So how can we use social media, especially WhatsApp messenger to raise awareness on hypertension?
Through WhatsApp voice notes, and videos, the government should exploit these channels in order to reach more wider audience across the country. Our government can disseminate information about hypertension, such as causes, importance of monthly screening as well as the importance of adopting a healthy lifestyle through social media.
Using social media to reach out to citizens, allows the government to not over work the limited health employees in the healthcare field, and most importantly this will spark conversations within our communities. One thing is for sure, South Africa has active citizens, who are willing to be educated and guided to make their lives better, though technology, particularly social media which we are all connected by, South Africa can start a whole new movement of hypertension awareness, allowing everyone to have a voice and become their own advocate.