News / Africa

Kenya Has 'First World' Health Problems

People shop at a Nakumatt store in an upmarket area of Nairobi, Kenya, Jan. 5, 2011.People shop at a Nakumatt store in an upmarket area of Nairobi, Kenya, Jan. 5, 2011.
x
People shop at a Nakumatt store in an upmarket area of Nairobi, Kenya, Jan. 5, 2011.
People shop at a Nakumatt store in an upmarket area of Nairobi, Kenya, Jan. 5, 2011.
Gabe Joselow
The unhealthy habits that come along with economic development, including smoking, drinking and eating fast food, are taking their toll on the health of Kenyans, who are suffering from increasing rates of high blood pressure. Health workers are concerned that if unchecked, this affliction could become a serious problem for the country.

In the checkout line at a supermarket in downtown Nairobi, a conveyor belt moves bags of potato chips, snack foods, processed meats and cheeses, tubs of margarine and bottles of cooking oil.

What many customers here don’t know is that these foods are silent killers - high in salt and fat, ingredients that ratchet up a person’s blood pressure and can lead to an early death from stroke or heart disease.

"They are not aware that they could be sick," said Milicent Manyore, founder of Medical Missions Kenya, a non-profit that provides free health screenings across the country.

"They could have a time bomb. There could be something happening to them, and there’s something they can do about it, [but] they don’t even know that," she said.

Manyore, a nurse practicing in the United States, has raised the alarm in Kenya about the dangers of high blood pressure, also known as hypertension, after being diagnosed with the problem herself.

"And so what I did was every time I went home [to Kenya] I started screening people, and I discovered the more I started screening people the more cases of hypertension I discovered. Yeah, that’s how it started," said the nurse.

The World Health Organization says cases of hypertension are most prevalent in low-income countries in Africa, where more than 40 percent of the adult population can be affected.

Lifestyle

In Kenya, Manyore has noticed that the cases are not uniform across the nation.

In more urbanized areas, like Central Province, just outside Nairobi, she says up to 75 percent of those screened have high blood pressure. While in the remote, pastoral Samburu region, less than 10 percent of the population suffers from hypertension.

Manyore says lifestyle makes all the difference.

"They walk more distances, they eat organic food, they don’t buy processed food," she said. "So we could see the lifestyle between the two tribes or areas. There’s a big difference; there’s a huge difference."

The treadmills are usually busy at this downtown fitness center, one of the many gyms in town catering to a growing middle class.

Exercise can be hard to come by in Nairobi, where those who can afford to drive take cars and buses to get around, and where the air quality is often unhealthy.

Peter Murunga, a physical trainer, says clients often come in looking for help getting their blood pressure under control, but many are unaware of the help they can get from regular exercise.

"People get sick and they go to the hospital and they are told now to go to the gym and work out. But that’s too late. If somebody is 50 years and he has never seen a gym in his life, so you can imagine how the kids will be," he said.

"Not difficult to treat"

Professor Elijah Ogola, a cardiologist who teaches at the University of Nairobi, says hypertension is not difficult to treat. The drugs are available, but people must make a greater effort to get checked.

"We need to get people to know whether they’re hypertensive or not. And again, a lot of education needs to be done in this area, because hypertension is a symptomless disease," said Ogola.

He encourages doctors and nurses to make blood pressure checks part of standard procedure.

"Also getting the health workers to be conscious that when you encounter an adult, for whatever reason, it just takes an extra five minutes to know their blood pressure," said the professor.

The Kenyan government is conducting a national health survey that will include data on blood pressure to better guide policy going forward.

The battle against hypertension will be difficult, with danger lurking in every grocery store, bar and fried chicken joint.

You May Like

Multimedia US Nurse ‘Cured of Ebola,’ NIH Says

Nina Pham, Texas nurse who treated first Ebola patient in US, received no experimental drugs; WHO expects vaccine surge in 2015 More

Video Islamic State Militants Encroach on Baghdad

Iraqi capital not under ‘imminent threat,’ US military says, amid worries about foothold More

Video Hong Kong Protesters Focus on Holding Volatile Mong Kok

Activists say holding Mong Kok is key to their movement's success, despite confrontations with angry residents and police More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
After Decades of Pressure, Luxembourg Drops Bank Secrecy Rulesi
X
October 21, 2014 12:20 AM
European Union finance ministers have reached a breakthrough agreement that will make it more difficult for tax cheats to hide their money. The new legislation, which had been blocked for years by countries with a reputation as tax havens, was approved last week after Luxembourg and Austria agreed to lift their vetoes. But as Mil Arcega reports, it doesn’t mean tax cheats have run out of places to keep their money hidden.
Video

Video After Decades of Pressure, Luxembourg Drops Bank Secrecy Rules

European Union finance ministers have reached a breakthrough agreement that will make it more difficult for tax cheats to hide their money. The new legislation, which had been blocked for years by countries with a reputation as tax havens, was approved last week after Luxembourg and Austria agreed to lift their vetoes. But as Mil Arcega reports, it doesn’t mean tax cheats have run out of places to keep their money hidden.
Video

Video Kobani Refugees Welcome, Turkey Criticizes, US Airdrop

Residents of Kobani in northern Syria have welcomed the airdrop of weapons, ammunition and medicine to Kurdish militia who are resisting the seizure of their city by Islamic State militants. The Turkish government, however, has criticized the operation. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from southeastern Turkey, across the border from Kobani.
Video

Video China Political Meeting Seeks to Improve Rule of Law

China’s communist leaders will host a top level political meeting this week, called the Fourth Plenum, and for the first time in the party’s history, rule of law will be a key item on the agenda. Analysts and Chinese media reports say the meetings could see the approval of long-awaited measures aimed at giving courts more independence and include steps to enhance an already aggressive and high-reaching anti-corruption drive. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
Video

Video US ‘Death Cafes’ Put Focus on the Finale

In contemporary America, death usually is a topic to be avoided. But the growing “death café” movement encourages people to discuss their fears and desires about their final moments. VOA’s Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Ebola Orphanage Opens in Sierra Leone

Sierra Leone's first Ebola orphanage has opened in the Kailahun district. Hundreds of children orphaned since the beginning of the Ebola outbreak face stigma and rejection with nobody to care for them. Adam Bailes reports for VOA about a new interim care center that's aimed at helping the growing number of children affected by Ebola.
Video

Video Young Nairobi Tech Innovator on 'Track' in Security Business

A 24-year-old technology innovator in Nairobi has invented a tracking device that monitors and secures cars. He has also come up with what he claims is the most robust audio-visual surveillance system yet. As Lenny Ruvaga reports from the Kenyan capital, his innovations are offering alternative security solutions.
Video

Video Latinas Converting to Islam for Identity, Structure

Latinos are one of the fastest growing groups in the Muslim religion. According to the Pew Research Center, about 6 percent of American Muslims are Latino. And a little more than half of new converts are female. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti travelled to Miami, Florida -- where two out of every three residents is Hispanic -- to learn more.
Video

Video Exclusive: American Joins Kurds' Anti-IS Fight

The United States and other Western nations have expressed alarm about their citizens joining Islamic State forces in Syria and Iraq. In a rare counterpoint to the phenomenon, an American has taken up arms with the militants' Syrian Kurdish opponents. Elizabeth Arrott has more in this exclusive profile by VOA Kurdish reporter Zana Omer in Ras al Ayn, Syria.
Video

Video South Korea Confronts Violence Within Military Ranks

Every able-bodied South Korean male between 18 and 35 must serve for 21 to 36 months in the country’s armed forces, depending upon the specific branch. For many, service is a rite of passage to manhood. But there are growing concerns that bullying and violence come along with the tradition. Reporter Jason Strother has more from Seoul.
Video

Video North Carolina Emerges as Key Election Battleground

U.S. congressional midterm elections will be held on November 4th and most political analysts give Republicans an excellent chance to win a majority in the U.S. Senate, which Democrats now control. So what are the issues driving voters in this congressional election year? VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone traveled to North Carolina, one of the most politically competitive states in the country, to find out.
Video

Video Comanche People Maintain Pride in Their Heritage

The Comanche (Indian nation) once were called the “Lords of the Plains,” with an empire that included half the land area of current day Texas, large parts of Oklahoma, New Mexico, Kansas and Colorado.The fierceness and battle prowess of these warriors on horseback delayed the settlement of most of West Texas for four decades. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Lawton, Oklahoma, that while their warrior days are over, the 15,000 members of the Comanche Nation remain a proud people.
Video

Video Turkey Campus Attacks Raise Islamic Radicalization Fears

Concerns are growing in Turkey of Islamic radicalization at some universities, after clashes between supporters of the jihadist group Islamic State (IS) or ISIS, and those opposed to the extremists. Pro-jihadist literature is on sale openly on the streets of Istanbul. Critics accuse the government of turning a blind eye to radicalism at home, while Kurds accuse the president of supporting IS - a charge strongly denied. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.

All About America

AppleAndroid