JOURNAL ARTICLE

Knowledge, beliefs and attitudes of community health workers about hypertension in the Cape Peninsula, South Africa

M J Sengwana, T Puoane
Curationis 2004, 27 (1): 65-71
15168626
This article explores the perceptions and attitudes of community health workers (CHWs) about hypertension. The level of knowledge of hypertension, as well as their personal attitude towards this is crucial in the style and quality of their interventions. CHWs, whose role in health promotion is being increasingly recognised, can help contain or reduce the prevalence of hypertension by influencing the community to adopt healthy lifestyles. Forty-three CHWs employed by Zanempilo in two study areas, Sites B and C in Khayelitsha in the Cape Peninsula, South Africa, were included in the study. Firstly, focus group discussions were conduced with 17 purposively selected CHWs to explore attitudes, beliefs and perceptions of hypertension. Secondly, interviews were conducted to assess their basic knowledge about causes, prevention and control of hypertension. The focus group discussions revealed that CHWs were uncertain about the causes of hypertension. They also found it difficult to grasp the fact that people without risk factors, such as overweight or a family history of hypertension, could be hypertensive. Many CHWs believe in traditional medicines and home-brewed beer as the best treatment for hypertension. They believe that people who take medical treatment become sicker and that their health deteriorates rapidly. Risk factors of hypertension mentioned during the structured interviews include inheritance, lack of physical activity, consuming lots of salty and fatty food. Conclusions drawn from the findings of the CHWs' responses highlighted their insufficient knowledge about hypertension as a chronic disease of lifestyle. Meanwhile they are expected to play a role in stimulating community residents' interest in the broad principle of preventive health maintenance and follow-up. Data obtained from this research can be used for the planning of health-promotion programmes. These should include preventing hypertension and improving primary management of individual sufferers. Because of their working relations and close link with CHWs, community nurses in primary health-care facilities need to recognise these beliefs and attitudes since these may differ from their own.

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