Make hypertension sexy, says Connell

Medical specialist Dr Kenneth Connell wants the authorities to “make hypertension sexy” to help get the message through that the disease is deadly.

Dr Connell, the president of the Heart and Stroke Foundation of Barbados, said Barbadians were not taking hypertension and other non-communicable diseases (NCDs) seriously because awareness about non-infectious diseases played second fiddle to efforts to drive home the dangers of contagious illnesses.

Speaking at the launch of Measurement Month at the Hassell and Symmonds Cardiac Care Centre on Jemmotts Lane, St Michael, Connell explained that aside from designated awareness months, hypertension did not get the type of media attention given to HIV prevention.

“Awareness of hypertension really has lagged behind awareness of other diseases. When you consider it, everyone in this region knew about Ebola, everyone knew about the danger of Ebola, we saw the media clips in the international news . . . .  We knew about this because we all thought we were in danger of contracting Ebola and no one wanted to die from a devastating infectious disease.

“This goes back to the role of media sensationalizing in some circumstances an infectious disease but for a group of diseases [NCDs] that cost so many lives we have taken a back seat and say, ‘well you know we have heard enough about hypertension let’s move on’. The public has become numb to the hypertension voice,” he said.

The internist stressed that it was incumbent on the medical profession, Government and the media to find new and innovative ways of making NCDs a prominent feature of the regular Barbadian discourse,
as there were greater implications for the society

“We need to make hypertension sexy and attractive so that features on the minds of the public. We need to make the risk factors that cause hypertension to be very prominently discussed in the public’s sphere . . . . As a public we don’t see the risk targeted directly at us, we saw the risk of Ebola at us, we see the risk of HIV at us but not so with hypertension. So that is really a potential barrier because it’s not contagious and ‘no one that’s close to me has it,’” Dr Connell said.

He noted that even with the number of reported sudden deaths, which are later traced to the presence of NCDs, Barbadians were still slow to embrace the preventative lifestyle changes.

“We have reports of people who are healthy who are dropping dead on the street, not from infectious disease but they dropping dead from a non-communicable disease and yet it still hasn’t created the hype and excitement that the person who just dropped down in the bus terminal could have been because I am in an environment where NCDs are so prevalent,” he stressed.

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