WHO celebrates World Health Day 2013; calls for greater efforts to prevent, control hypertension

On the occasion of celebrating the World Health Day on April 7 with a theme on hypertension, the World Health Organization (WHO) called on Wednesday for greater efforts to prevent and control this disease, which is also known as high blood pressure.

Hypertension is estimated to affect more than one in three adults aged 25 and over (or about one billion people) worldwide, and contributes to almost 9.4 million deaths due to heart attacks and strokes annually; it also increases the risk of conditions such as kidney failure and blindness, said Director-General Margaret Chan on a commemorative meeting for the World Health Day held at WHO headquarters in Geneva Wednesday.

Hypertension usually does not show any symptom for years or even decades and vital early warning signals would go unheeded, said the Director-General.

"Our aim today is to make people aware of the need to know their blood pressure, to take high blood pressure seriously, and then to take control," said Chan, emphasizing that knowing the blood pressure level is the first critical step to prevent and control hypertension.

According to the report "A Global Brief on Hypertension -- silent killer, global public health crisis" issued by WHO Wednesday, Africa sees the highest prevalence of hypertension (46 percent of adults aged 25 and over), while the Americas the lowest (35 percent).

Owing to appropriate public policies and better access to health care, high-income countries have a lower prevalence of hypertension (35 percent) than low-and medium-income countries (40 percent).

The prevention and control of hypertension requires the efforts from government and policy makers, and health workers, academic research community, civil society, private sector and families and individuals all have a role to play, the report stated.

For the part of WHO, it has guidance for member states to establish appropriate and multisectoral policies and to implement affordable and effective solutions to reduce health and financial burden linked to hypertension by offering tools such as WHO/International Society of Hypertension risk prediction charts to aid risk management and providing evidence-based guidance on the appropriate use of medicines, said the organization.

The World Health Day, which marks the anniversary of the establishment of WHO in 1948, is celebrated annually on April 7, with a different theme each year, featuring an area of priority in global public health.

The theme for the World Health Day 2013 is a response to the United Nations Political Declaration on Noncommunicable Diseases adopted in 2011 under which countries attach more emphasis on promoting public awareness campaigns to push the prevention and control of noncommunicable diseases such as heart disease and stroke, said the health organization.