According to the World Health Organization (WHO), approximately 41 million people die from non-communicable diseases (NCDs) every year, equivalent to 71 per cent of all deaths globally. Among NCDs, hypertension and diabetes are the most common, mainly affecting older persons, but also increasingly found among younger age groups. In Vietnam, there are currently about 12 million people living with hypertension, which means 1 out of 5 adults in Vietnam has high blood pressure., and nearly 3.8 million people are living with diabetes.
One of the most effective ways to prevent and control these diseases is to conduct screening, for early identification of the symptoms and risk factors. However, the proportion of people with hypertension and diabetes who are detected and treated, as well as the number of people being able to access screening services in the community is still very low. According to the Ministry of Health (MoH) of Vietnam statistics, nearly 60 per cent of people with hypertension and nearly 70 per cent of people with diabetes have not been detected. In addition, in the context of the current COVID-19 pandemic, travelling and accessing medical services has become even more difficult.
To help address this situation, the Vietnam SUNI-SEA project team and the Association of the Elderly at all levels, conducted training on NCDs’ management and prevention for Intergenerational Self-Help Clubs (ISHCs) in Ninh Binh province. After the training each ISHC was provided an NCDs risk screening toolkit including weight scales, tape measure, blood pressure monitor, body mass index (BMI) chart, screening guideline and tablet phone. Following the training ISHC health volunteers, with the support of the Association of the Elderly and commune / ward stations in Ninh Binh province, commenced risk screening for club members, for both hypertension and diabetes.
To ensure compliance with the guidelines of the Vietnam Ministry of Health during the COVID-19 pandemic, the ISHCs provides participants attending the screening sessions with masks and hand sanitizers and require them to practice social distancing and avoid talking during screening. Members who cannot travel to the screening site are screened at home by the ISHCs’ health volunteers to ensure that no one is left behind.
Since the training was completed in May 2021, three clubs namely, Vuon Thi, Gia Thuong, and Binh Hoa ISHCs have successfully organised NCDs screening sessions for their members.
On 15 and 28 September, starting at 7 am, ISHC members of Gia Thuong and Binh Hoa began to arrive at the screening sites with much enthusiasm. Both ISHCs reached nearly 90 percent of the club members. The club conducts screening for members methodically following six screening steps, as per the screening guidelines, including:
- Step 1 – Registration, classification;
- Step 2 – Measure weight, height, waist circumference and calculate the BMI;
- Step 3 – Assess diabetes risk using a noninvasive screening tool called FINDRISC ;
- Step 4 – Measure blood pressure;
- Step 5 – Post-screening consultation;
- Step 6 – Synthesis.
Through the screening process, Gia Thuong ISHC identified 13 new members who were at high risk of hypertension and 10 members who were at risk of diabetes. These members were then consulted and referred to the appropriate health facilities for monitoring, examination, and treatment. Members with hypertension were referred to the Communal Health Station, and members at risk of diabetes were referred to the District Health Center. At the second screening session, Binh Hoa ISHC did not detect any new cases at risk of hypertension or diabetes, as members who have been detected at the first screening have been following doctor’s recommendation and adhere to their medicine. This shows that with some support, older people could adopt a healthy lifestyle and improve their health.
These community screening activities for hypertension and diabetes have helped strengthen the partnership among community-based organisations, the Association of the Elderly and health facilities. The enthusiasm from older people, the vision of ISHCs management and the dedication of health staff are the key factors that lead to the success of the screening activities. With such solidarity, the prevention and management of NCDs among community members in Vietnam is possible. The same model of community screening has the potential to be adapted to other communities both at national and regional context.
Written by: Tran Bich Thuy, Nguyen Van Manh and Hoang Phuong Nhung, HelpAge International
Voices from the communities
“Thanks to activities like this, the solidarity among the members has increased and we are closer. All the screening event participants are very excited,” said Hoang Thi Cuc.
Read the full story here.
Read the full story here.