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May Measurement Month: why it's important and what's being done?

What’s the context?

This May will play host to the second annual May Measurement Month, a whole 31 days during which a global spotlight is placed on raising awareness around blood pressure. Employing the logic that knowing your numbers is a crucial step towards taking meaningful action on blood pressure, the aim of May Measurement Month is to increase access to screening for as many people as possible across the world.

With over 9.4 million people killed as a result of raised blood pressure every year, the condition represents “the biggest contributor to the global burden of disease and premature mortality” (Poulter et al, 2015). In the words of Neil Poulter – Professor of Preventive Cardiovascular Medicine at Imperial College London and President of the International Society of Hypertension who are leading on the initiative – high blood pressure is in fact “the largest epidemic ever known to mankind.”

A further contributing factor to this burden of disease is that less than half of people with high blood pressure know they have it; according to the PURE study by Chow et al, only 46.5% of people with the condition actually know their numbers. Even therefore if everyone that had high blood pressure was treated appropriately and able to bring their levels under control (which is far from being the case), around 53.5% of the global hypertensive population would remain completely unaware and untouched. It is for these reasons that large-scale screening is regarded as possibly the most effective way to reduce the adverse impacts of high blood pressure.

What’s the aim and how is it being achieved?

For the International Society of Hypertension, the ambitious hope is that May Measurement Month will help progressively increase awareness to 96%. Indeed, they are justified in their aims; last year during the inaugural 2017 May Measurement Month, a total of 1.2 million people were screened from across 80 countries. This year, with momentum building, the goal is to reach 1.5 million people, all through the hard work of enthusiastic volunteers that are dedicated to changing the fact that almost 10 million lives are needlessly lost each year through a condition that’s largely preventable. As a result, this project can lay unequivocal claim to being the largest ever synchronised collection of blood pressure data of its kind.

Based on the experience of last year, a number of lessons have been learnt to ensure that May Measurement Month 2018 effectively builds on the global campaign. A new and improved app for the user-friendly collection of high quality blood pressure data has been developed, offline data collection has been enabled to facilitate the gathering of data in remote locations, and the heads of rural and tribal communities have been engaged across the world to encourage access to communities that may routinely be amongst the hardest to reach. All of these lessons chime with the learnings that Health Diagnostics have amassed over the years of supporting cardiovascular disease prevention and NHS Health Check programmes, particularly amongst vulnerable groups.

How can you get involved?

If you’re keen to get involved with the campaign, the advice is to contact your local ambassadors; email addresses for UK and Ireland based leads are listed below:

  • England: Prof Francesco Capuccio – P.Cappuccio@warwick.ac.uk
  • Wales: Prof John Cockcroft – jcockcroft@cardiffmet.ac.uk
    Dr Barry McDonnell – bmcdonnell@cardiffmet.ac.uk
  • Scotland: Prof Adrian Brady – Adrian.Brady@glasgow.ac.uk
  • Ireland: Dr Eamon Dolan – Eamon028@indigo.ie

Alternatively, and if you’re more inclined to lend your support via social media, you can follow @maymeasure and/or adopt a May Measurement Month Facebook profile frame, all of which it’s hoped will drive the campaign’s viral presence.

With May only a few days away, the next month is primed to see a series of vital in-roads being made into preventing one of the world’s leading causes of premature mortality. Whilst blood pressure may only represent a simple measure, should May Measurement Month reach its targets, there is the very real prospect of saving no less than hundreds of thousands of lives. Now’s the time to lend your support!

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