“We introduced them to the program, explained the importance of screening for hypertension, and took their vitals. After this they say, ‘Thank you, thank you very much Nurse.’”
These words come from Byera Kwesiga, a nurse and site coordinator at Kahama Hospital in the Lake Zone of Tanzania, as she describes her work to protect mamas from the adverse effects of hypertension. As manager of the hospital’s Healthy Heart Africa Program, Byera organizes staff in the Reproductive and Child Health department and ensures that pregnant and postpartum women are properly screened for hypertension.
Hypertension, or high blood pressure, is among the leading causes of death in Tanzania and is especially dangerous for mothers and their babies. High blood pressure in pregnancy can develop into preeclampsia and eclampsia, which are both life-threatening, especially when left untreated. That’s why Touch Foundation is partnering with AstraZeneca’s Healthy Heart Africa program to screen pregnant and postpartum women in Tanzania.
Byera was among the nearly 150 Tanzanian Lake Zone health workers we trained in 2019 on the adverse effects of hypertension and how to conduct detailed screenings and diagnose pregnant and postpartum women. By December 2019, they had performed over 10,000 screenings! The information they collect during these screenings is not just helping them provide better care to patients: the data also helps us better understand the prevalence of hypertension in pregnant and postpartum women in the Lake Zone.
Byera is saving lives by ensuring mothers are screened during their antenatal and postnatal clinic visits. Before the program began, Byera says that she and other health workers often only discovered hypertensive cases during or right before labor and delivery, which didn’t give the opportunity to protect mothers from the life-threatening effects of high blood pressure. Now, screening during clinic visits allows Byera and her colleagues to diagnose hypertensive cases early, allowing more preventative measures to be taken. Byera remembers a pregnant patient whose blood pressure was approaching dangerously high levels during an antenatal screening. Because the nurses at Kahama Hospital caught it early, they were able to provide her with the proper medications and monitor her to ensure that she remained healthy and her baby was born safely.
At Touch, we’re excited to continue working with nurses like Byera, particularly in 2020, the Year of the Nurse and Midwife, who are leading the way in improving maternal health around sub-Saharan Africa.