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Pensions and Low Sodium Salt: A Qualitative Evaluation of a New Strategy for Managing Hypertension in Rural South Africa

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Background: This paper describes a pilot study to assess the feasibility of a novel intervention to improve the management of hypertension among older people in rural South Africa. Older South Africans have the highest rates of uncontrolled hypertension recorded for any country. Notably, South Africa has a widely-available old age grant (pension), which is delivered on a monthly basis to citizens living in rural villages.

Methods: We assessed the feasibility of engaging with older people at the point of pension delivery in the Agincourt sub-district of Mpumalanga Province. This included providing information about hypertension, measuring blood pressure, referral to primary care services, and providing a monthly supply of low sodium salt. We recruited 20 people aged 60 and over to participate in the pilot intervention, which was conducted over three months in two villages. Towards the end of the intervention, we conducted focus groups with study participants and held a meeting with local stakeholders, including the district health office and the state social security agency.

Results: The pilot study demonstrated (i) Sustained engagement with the original 20 participants. Of these, 19 continued to participate in the intervention during subsequent monthly pension days. (ii) A high level of acceptance of the low sodium salt product reflected in repeat usage and comments made in the focus groups. (iii) Strong support for the intervention and a willingness to collaborate with local stakeholders. (iv) A perception among participants that symptoms they associated with hypertension had abated. This is supported by blood pressure readings made over the three months of follow-up.

Conclusion: Though limited in scope, this pilot study provided evidence of the feasibility of the intervention and justification for it to be tested on a larger and more robust basis.
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Keywords: Agincourt; Hypertension; South Africa; intervention; older people; pensions

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 01 May 2018

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  • Current Aging Science publishes frontier review and experimental articles in all areas of aging and age-related research that may influence longevity. This multidisciplinary journal will help in understanding the biology and mechanism of aging, genetics, pathogenesis, intervention of normal aging process and preventive strategies of age-related disorders. The journal publishes objective reviews written by experts and leaders actively engaged in research using cellular, clinical, molecular, and animal models, including lower organism models (e.g., yeast, Caenorhabditis elegans and Drosophila). In addition to the affect of aging on integrated systems, the journal also covers original articles on recent research in fast emerging areas of adults stem cells, brain imaging, calorie restriction, immunosenescence, molecular diagnostics, pharmacology and clinical aspects of aging. Manuscripts are encouraged that relate to developmental programming of aging and the synergistic mechanism of aging with cardiovascular diseases, obesity and neurodegenerative disorders.

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