The World Health Organization (WHO) has depicted a gloomy future in which cardiovascular disease (CVD) would account for more than three-quarters of all deaths globally in less than a decade to come

Having established health population centres and longitudinal studies across Limpopo Province, especially in rural communities, the University of Limpopo (UL) is expanding its outreach efforts through multiple partnerships to educate communities about disease preventive measures. A group of researchers recently visited the Evelyn Lekganyane Clinic at Boyne in Ga-Mamabolo to share best practices for managing cardiovascular disease and to assist patients in the clinic with disease management.

The visit was part of research project titled: Scaling-up Packages of Interventions for Cardiovascular Disease Prevention in Europe and Sub-Saharan Africa: An Implementation Research Project (SPICES).

It has been running from 01 January 2017 and was initially expected to be completed on 31 December 2021 but was extended to 30 June 2022 to compensate for the time lost to strict Covid-19 lockdown regulations.

SPICES is led by Prof Tholene Sodi, a Clinical Psychologist and Full Professor in the Department of Psychology at UL. According to him, the project’s overarching goal is to implement cost-effective measures aimed at preventing CVD and its associated risks across Europe and Sub-Saharan Africa.

In the South African context, the project aims to implement and evaluate a CVD prevention programme in selected rural and semi-urban primary healthcare facilities in Capricorn District, Limpopo Province. Since its inception, the project has concentrated on 11 clinics (seven in Ga-Molepo and four in Seshego). Evelyn Lekganyane Clinic forms part of the healthcare facilities.

The project targeted the 11 clinics in Limpopo as part of an international collaboration involving European universities – University of Antwerp (Belgium); Nottingham Trent University (United Kingdom); Brighton and Sussex Medical School (United Kingdom); Brest University (France); and African universities – UL (South Africa) and Makerere University (Uganda).

The researchers previously visited the Evelyn Lekganyane Clinic, as well as the other ten clinics involved in the project, to promote health through behavioural modification interventions and screening for CVD risk factors.

The interventions employ a combination of proven cost-effective and efficient community and facility-based strategies based on communication and education. Such strategie allow them to identify and accordingly tailor interventions for patients who are at low, medium, or high risk of CVD.

During the visit, the researchers educated the patients on the causes of CVD and how to prevent it. Prof Nancy Malema, a Full Professor in the Department of Nursing Sciences and the project’s Research Manager, was one of the facilitators during the visit. She encouraged the patients to exercise regularly and to abstain from the use of tobacco, excessive alcohol and unhealthy diets.

“Many people are unaware of their CVD risk status, which has devastating health consequences for them, particularly the elderly and people whose family members have a history of chronic diseases such as high blood pressure, which can lead to stroke and heart failure if not managed at an early stage,” highlighted Prof Malema. She added that through the health promotion intervention, they hope to empower households by increasing self-management knowledge, as well as improve the effectiveness of CVD prevention, care, and management.

Christina Mapara, Facility Manager at the Evelyn Lekganyane Clinic, stated that the project’s intervention has assisted them in reducing the workload at the clinic because patients now come to them equipped on how to live and maintain a healthy lifestyle. She added that the clinic had always been overwhelmed with patients who had limited knowledge of their CVD risk status, forcing them to first refer them to dieticians. “Some were already at high risk and required immediate help. We appreciate the University of Limpopo for introducing SPICES to our clinic,” said Mapara.

Kagiso Sethoka*, a 43-year-old patient from Ga-Molepo, explained that her diet did not follow any dietary pattern, but after the health education by the researchers, she has learnt the importance of eating healthy, drinking plenty of water and avoiding high levels of stress in order to stay healthy and increase her lifespan.

Another patient Amos Mamabolo*, 62, said he has always tried to lead a healthy life and was pleased to learn that the researchers’ recommendations aligned with his lifestyle. He added that the health education strengthened his determination to live a healthy lifestyle in order to avoid CVD even as he ages.

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