Silent killer – Analysing first World Health Organization (WHO) report on hypertension | 22 September 2023 | UPSC Daily Editorial Analysis

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What's the article about?

  • It talks about the issue of hypertension, highlighted by the World Health Organization (WHO)'s first report on hypertension.


  • GS2: Issues Relating to Development and Management of Social Sector/Services relating to Health, Education, Human Resources
  • Prelims


  • The first World Health Organization (WHO) report on hypertension, released on September 19, reveals that globally, one in three individuals has hypertension, and four out of five do not have it adequately controlled.
  • This article analyzes the report's findings and discusses the need for better control of hypertension.


  • Devastating Impact of Hypertension:
    • Uncontrolled blood pressure (over 140/90) is a major risk factor for cardiovascular diseases such as heart attacks and stroke, and the most common cause of disease and death.
    • The WHO report shows that health risks associated with hypertension do not begin at over 140/90.
    • Instead, they operate in a continuum even below what is classified as clinical hypertension, especially in people who are diabetic, obese, and those who consume tobacco and alcohol.
    • Hence, reports on hypertension levels in the population underestimate the cumulative risk of high blood pressure.
  • Hypertension in India:
    • The WHO report, which relies on 2019 data, reveals that 188 million Indian adults aged 30-79 years have hypertension.
    • Of them, the condition has been diagnosed only in 37%, 30% are treated, and a meager 15% of people have hypertension under control.
    • Women appear to be marginally better than men in having the condition diagnosed, treated, and controlled.
    • Stroke incidence was found to be 108-172 per 1,00,000 people per year, and the one-month case fatality rate was 18%-42%.
    • In the Global Burden of Disease report, in 2019, heart attack was the leading cause of death and disability in India.
  • Excess Salt Consumption:
    • Studies have shown that excess salt consumption (over five grams a day) is responsible for 17%-30% of hypertension.
    • While member States are required to achieve a 30% relative reduction in mean population intake of salt by 2025, India is yet to implement many components of WHO’s prescription to cut down salt intake.
    • Making front-of-pack nutrition labeling mandatory, encouraging reformulation of foods to cut down salt, and raising awareness in people to reduce salt intake should be urgently undertaken.
  • India Hypertension Control Initiative (IHCI):
    • India has done well in improving blood pressure control in people with hypertension through the novel India Hypertension Control Initiative (IHCI).
    • Launched in 2018, the IHCI has successfully enrolled 5.8 million hypertensive patients for treatment in 27 States, as of June 2023.
    • Importantly, 48% of patients enrolled at primary health centers and 55% at health wellness centers achieved blood pressure control as of March 2021.
    • It is now important to greatly increase the number of hypertensive people on treatment and keep blood pressure under control.

Way Forward:

  • The findings of the report are worrisome. All stakeholders must come together to ensure that all the global targets set by the WHO regarding hypertension must be achieved on time.

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