News Global Health Center Chronic Disease

Center co-Director collaborates with university & Nigerian partners to curb hypertension

Written by Kim Furlow, communications manager for the Institute for Public Health and Mark Huffman, MD, MPH, co-director of the Global Health Center

May, 2023 stakeholder meeting on hypertension in Abuja, Nigeria | Photo by April Houston

One of the largest health burdens in Nigeria is hypertension. According to the Global Burden of Disease, hypertension combined with other cardiovascular disease, affects more than 70 million people in Nigeria. Co-Director of the Global Health Center, Mark Huffman, MD, MPH, and a research team at Washington University in St. Louis, are collaborating with University of Abuja in Nigeria, Northwestern University in Chicago, the World Health Organization (WHO), the Federal Ministry of Health of Nigeria, and other key stakeholders on two projects on hypertension prevention and treatment in Nigeria. Huffman, a co-principal investigator on both studies along with Dike Ojji, MBBS, from University of Abuja, recently met with collaborators and stakeholders in Abuja, Nigeria to discuss to-date findings, best practice approaches, and study implications, including national scale up of hypertension care. Their research program, which began in 2019, involves more than 20,000 adults enrolled in 60 primary health care centers around the Federal Capital Territory of Nigeria. The National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute funds both studies.

“Most people with high blood pressure in Nigeria have historically been referred to secondary and tertiary care for their care, which may be far away from where they live. Our study integrates diagnosis and management in primary care led by trained community health workers,” Huffman said. “We also evaluate implementation of Nigeria’s food policies, which have an important influence on the development of high blood pressure.”

At recent stakeholder meetings, Huffman, Ojji, and others spoke with Nigerian media outlets about the project’s importance. Read some of the articles and radio interviews below:

Radio Nigeria:

New Telegraph:

Leadership Nigeria:

Program researchers, including Huffman and Ojji, agree that translating research into policies is critical to improving public health in Nigeria and subsequently lowering the growing number of cardiovascular disease cases.

“Nigeria is the most populous Black country in the world,” said Huffman. “We are eager to both contribute to research there, and learn from Nigeria to bring research lessons back home to St. Louis, where we also have a high burden of high blood pressure, heart disease, and stroke. These meetings are essential for developing, implementing, and evaluating new policies to improve cardiovascular health and health care in Nigeria, which can serve as a model for other countries. I am so grateful for the opportunity to collaborate with Dr. Ojji and his outstanding team at the University of Abuja.”

The Global Health Center is supported by the Institute for Public Health and the Department of Medicine at Washington University in St. Louis.