Self-care practices and needs in patients with hypertension, diabetes, or both in rural Uganda: a mixed-methods study

Andrew K Tusubira, Christine K Nalwadda, Ann R Akiteng, Mari Armstrong-Hough, Evelyn Hsieh, Christine Ngaruiya, Tracy L Rabin, Nicola Hawley, Kasia J Lipska, Robert Kalyesubula, Isaac Ssinabulya, Jeremy I Schwartz

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Background The prevalence of non-communicable diseases (NCDs) is increasing in rural sub-Saharan Africa. Implementation and adaptation of recommended self-care practices is crucial for successful management of NCDs to prevent complications. However, little is known about self-care practices in patients living in rural sub-Saharan Africa. In this study, we aimed to understand patients' adherence to self-care practices for hypertension, diabetes, or both, in rural Uganda and their reasons for non-adherence. Methods We conducted a mixed-methods study in adult patients previously diagnosed with diabetes or hypertension, or both, who attended outpatient NCD clinics at three health facilities in Nakaseke district. We concurrently collected quantitative data from a random sample of patients using pretested, structured questionnaires and held focus group discussions and in-depth interviews with a purposive sample of patients. Descriptive statistics were calculated for the quantitative data. Qualitative analysis was conducted using a thematic approach. Findings Between April and August, 2019, we administered questionnaires and carried out six focus group discussions and 19 in-depth interviews with 385 participants. Mean age was 54·0 years (SD 14·57) and most respondents, 257 (66·8%), were female. Of the 385 participants, 39·2% (151) had diabetes; 36·9% (142) had hypertension, and 23·9% (92) had both conditions. Most respondents reported daily adherence to medication for hypertension (79·5% [186/234]) and diabetes (84·8% [206/243]). Few participants (15·6% [60/385]) reported daily vigorous physical activity, but 63·1% (243/385) reported moderate physical activity at least once per week. Most respondents reported adherence to recommendations for dietary changes (75·6% [291/385]), non-smoking (98·7% [380/385]), alcohol abstinence (90·1% [347/385]), and weight management (75·6% [291/385]). From the interviews and discussions, patients reported that they tried to adhere to recommended medications but were limited by the inability to obtain them. Most patients reported irregular self-monitoring and many reported confusion about recommended practices due to mixed messages, mainly from their peers. Respondents also reported use of herbal remedies, soaking swollen feet in salt water, and coping with stress through prolonged sleep, social isolation, and alcohol use. Interpretation Varied self-care practices exist among rural Ugandan NCD patients. Patients inconsistently engage in recommended practices because of uncertain access to medicines, structural barriers, and inconsistent messaging. Locally adapted educational self-care programmes and consistent access to medicines could help improve self-care in these patients. As low-income countries like Uganda continue to advance their NCD policies, specific attention should be focused on strategies to ensure equitable access to essential NCD medicines. Additionally, the unique circumstances of people living in rural settings should be taken into account when developing programmes for management of NCDs. Funding Yale Institute of Global Health Hecht Global Health Faculty Network Award
Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)S19
JournalThe Lancet Global Health
StatePublished - Apr 2020


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