Background Cardiovascular disease (CVD) prevalence is high in Ghana-but awareness, prevention, and treatment is sparse, particularly in rural regions. The nurse-led Community-based Health Planning and Services program offers general preventive and primary care in these areas, but overlooks CVD and its risk factors. Methods We conducted in-depth interviews with 30 community members (CM) in rural Navrongo, Ghana to understand their knowledge and beliefs regarding the causes and treatment of CVD and the potential role of community nurses in rendering CVD care. We transcribed audio records, coded these data for content, and qualitatively analyzed these codes for key themes. Results CMs described CVD as an acute, aggressive disease rather than a chronic asymptomatic condition, believing that CVD patients often die suddenly. Yet CMs identified causal risk factors for CVD: not only tobacco smoking and poor diet, but also emotional burdens and stressors, which cause and exacerbate CVD symptoms. Many CMs expressed interest in counseling on these risk factors, particularly diet. However, they felt that nurses could provide comprehensive CVD care only if key barriers (such as medication access and training) are addressed. In the interim, many saw nurses' main CVD care role as referring to the hospital. Conclusions CMs would like CVD behavioral education from community nurses at local clinics, but feel the local health system is now too fragile to offer other CVD interventions. CMs believe that a more comprehensive CVD care model would require accessible medication, along with training for nurses to screen for hypertension and other cardiovascular risk factors-in addition to counseling on CVD prevention. Such counseling should build upon existing community beliefs and concerns regarding CVD-including its behavioral and mental health causes-in addition to usual measures to prevent CVD mortality such as diet changes and physical exercise.
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