Causes of medication non-adherence and the acceptability of support strategies for people with hypertension in Uganda: A qualitative study

Rachel Wilkinson, Evan Garden, Rose Clarke Nanyonga, Allison Squires, Florence Nakaggwa, Jeremy I Schwartz, David J Heller

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


BACKGROUND: Hypertension is the most common non-communicable disease in Uganda and its prevalence is predicted to grow substantially over the next several years. Rates of hypertension control remain suboptimal, however, due in part to poor medication adherence. There is a significant need to better understand the drivers of poor medication adherence for patients with non-communicable diseases and to implement appropriate interventions to improve adherence.

OBJECTIVE: The purpose of this study was two-fold. First, this study sought to understand what factors support or undermine patients' efforts to adhere to their hypertensive medications at baseline. Second, this study sought to explore the acceptability and feasibility of adherence interventions to both providers and patients.

METHODS: This study was conducted at a large, urban private hospital in Kampala, Uganda. We conducted key informant interviews with both providers and patients. We explored their beliefs about the causes of medication non-adherence while examining the acceptability of support strategies validated in similar contexts, such as: daily text reminders, educational materials on hypertension, monthly group meetings (i.e. "adherence clubs") led by patients or providers, one-on-one appointments with providers, and modified drug dispensing at the hospital pharmacy.

STUDY DESIGN AND PARTICIPANTS: Fifteen healthcare providers and forty-two patients were interviewed. All interviews were transcribed, and these transcripts were analyzed using the NVIVO software. We utilized a conventional content analysis approach informed by the Health Belief Model.

RESULTS: Of the proposed interventions, participants expressed particularly strong interest in adherence clubs and educational materials. Participants drew connections between these interventions and previously underexplored drivers of non-adherence, which included the lack of symptoms from untreated hypertension, fear of medication side effects, interest in traditional herbal medicine, and the importance of family and community support.

CONCLUSIONS: Both providers and patients at the facility recognized medication non-adherence as a major barrier to hypertension control and expressed interest in improving adherence through interventions that addressed context-specific barriers.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number104143
Pages (from-to)104143
JournalInternational Journal of Nursing Studies
Early online dateNov 28 2021
StatePublished - Feb 2022


  • Adherence clubs
  • Hypertension
  • Medication adherence
  • Uganda
  • Non-communicable disease


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