Managing hypertension in rural Uganda: Realities and strategies 10 years of experience at a district hospital chronic disease clinic

Joseph H. Stephens, Faraz Alizadeh, John Bosco Bamwine, Michael Baganizi, Gloria Fung Chaw, Morgen Yao Cohen, Amit Patel, K. J. Schaefle, Jasdeep Singh Mangat, Joel Mukiza, Gerald A. Paccione

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


The literature on the global burden of noncommunicable diseases (NCDs) contrasts a spiraling epidemic centered in low-income countries with low levels of awareness, risk factor control, infrastructure, personnel and funding. There are few data-based reports of broad and interconnected strategies to address these challenges where they hit hardest. Kisoro district in Southwest Uganda is rural, remote, over-populated and poor, the majority of its population working as subsistence farmers. This paper describes the 10-year experience of a tripartite collaboration between Kisoro District Hospital, a New York teaching hospital, and a US-based NGO delivering hypertension services to the district. Using data from patient and pharmacy registers and a random sample of charts reviewed manually, we describe both common and often-overlooked barriers to quality care (clinic overcrowding, drug stockouts, provider shortages, visit non-adherence, and uninformative medical records) and strategies adopted to address these barriers (locally-adapted treatment guidelines, patient-clinic-pharmacy cost sharing, appointment systems, workforce development, patient-provider continuity initiatives, and ongoing data monitoring). We find that: 1) although following CVD risk-based treatment guidelines could safely allocate scarce medications to the highest-risk patients first, national guidelines emphasizing treatment at blood pressures over 140/90 mmHg ignore the reality of “stockouts” and conflict with this goal; 2) often-overlooked barriers to quality care such as poor quality medical records, clinic disorganization and local employment practices are surmountable; 3) cost-sharing initiatives partially fill the gap during stockouts of government supplied medications, but still may be insufficient for the poorest patients; 4) frequent prolonged lapses in care may be the norm for most known hypertensives in rural SSA, and 5) ongoing data monitoring can identify local barriers to quality care and provide the impetus to ameliorate them. We anticipate that our 10-year experience adapting to the complex challenges of hypertension management and a granular description of the solutions we devised will be of benefit to others managing chronic disease in similar rural African communities.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere0234049
JournalPloS one
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 2020

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General


Dive into the research topics of 'Managing hypertension in rural Uganda: Realities and strategies 10 years of experience at a district hospital chronic disease clinic'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this