The present article describes the background and principles of a programme for community control of hypertension, which is part of the North Karelia project--a comprehensive community programme for the control of cardiovascular diseases. The hypertension programme also forms part of an international co-operative study by WHO. The programme consists of a community intervention integrated with the service structure. The methods used include health education of the public, education of health service personnel, organization of a service for the spreading of information and also for screening, treatment and follow-up. Every hypertensive person in the community is registered in the hypertension register and checked on annually. The evaluation is made mainly on baseline and terminal survey data from the intervention area and a reference area, the hypertension register, a myocardial infarction register and a stroke register in the intervention area.
A hypertension control program was established as part of the more comprehensive North Karelia Project. This project was started in 1972 in response to a petition from the population of North Karelia, a county in Finland, asking for national assistance to reduce the exceptionally high cardiovascular disease mortality and morbidity in the area. The North Karelia Project was carried out from 1972 to 1977.The hypertension control program was implemented mainly in local health centers by physicians and public health nurses, who followed guidelines issued by the project staff and worked under its supervision.Although the target population for the North Karelia Project was the entire population of North Karelia, the project focused on middle-aged men. The hypertension subprogram was introduced in steps. Its objectives included the training of health personnel, establishment of an information system in the county to educate people about hypertension, and organization of the detection, treatment, and followup of hypertensives. A hypertension dispensary was established in each of the 12 health centers in the county. Continuous training of the local public health nurses and physicians faciliated integration of the hypertension program into the operations of the health centers.A central hypertension register and the hypertension control clinics at the health centers were the essential tools in the systematic followup of hypertensives. Some 17,000 hypertensives were on the register by the end of the 5-year project.The main aim in providing health education about hypertension, as well as in treating hypertension itself, was to prevent severe cardiovascular diseases as a whole. Therefore the hypertension control program was integrated into the comprehensive cardiovascular disease control program, and hypertensives received advice concerning smoking and dietary changes as well as about high blood pressure.A survey of health care personnel in North Karelia and in a reference area showed that the care of hypertensives was more systematic in North Karelia and that its health care personnel were more satisfied with the cardiovascular disease care that was provided.
The Finnish population has a high risk of coronary heart disease, which is associated to a high population level of serum total cholesterol (CHOL) already evident at early ages. The study investigated the familial aggregation of CHOL in a sample of families with young offspring from eastern Finland.
Fifteen-year-old offspring were examined during 1996-1997 and their biological parents were examined during 1993-1994. A total of 224 children were invited and 184 families participated, of which 123 were included in the analysis with complete data. The main outcome measure was the CHOL (millimoles per liter).
Significant positive familial correlations of CHOL were found for the pairs of mother/offspring (r = 0.35, P or =5 mmol/L (OR = 3.26, 95% CI = 1.2-8.9, n = 111).
The study confirmed the familial aggregation of CHOL. The consistent CHOL association between the mother and the offspring may indicate the key role of the mother for the primary prevention of hypercholesterolemia.
Epidemiology is the basic science of public health. It combines medical and social sciences, both of which are developing with new inventions. Therefore, the role of epidemiology and its boundaries are also changing over time. An important role of epidemiology is to develop and implement community-based control programmes for major diseases in the community. Such programmes are essential for large scale public health policy. It is necessary that epidemiological research can as freely as possible test new methods of disease prevention and health promotion. The first community-based control programme for cardiovascular diseases, the North Karelia Project is reviewed against this background. At present, it is still possible to define the boundaries of epidemiology geographically and culturally, but in the future, however, it will become more difficult. There is no doubt that epidemiology will remain as the basic science of public health but the scope of public health problems are growing much wider. These include the prevention of the final epidemic--the destruction of our planet by nuclear bombs. In the control of the existing epidemics and in the prevention of new ones the boundaries of epidemiology cannot stay rigid but they must be changing as new facts about the emerging public health problems are identified.
Medical and epidemiological research into the aetiology of CHD has drawn attention to the likely causal role of certain risk factors, especially elevated serum (LDL) cholesterol and blood pressure levels, and smoking. Conventional trials to establish the causality have come up against problems of feasibility and study design. Community-based studies have considerable potential in introducing changes to the general lifestyle and risk factors in large numbers of people (since the risk factors are closely related to the way of life and other features of the community). Thus a well evaluated community-based study can augment our knowledge on the role of the risk factors. Furthermore, a community study examines how the existing service structure and community resources can be used and assesses the overall feasibility and consequences of such an intervention. The North Karelia project, started in eastern Finland in 1972, has been a major community-based study on the prevention of CHD. The results of the 10-year evaluation of the project illustrate the feasibility and consequences of the approach. During the 10-year period 1972-82 the following net changes (i.e. adjusted for changes in the reference area) occurred in the risk factor means of the population aged 30-59 in North-Karelia: -28% for smoking (p less than .001), -3% for serum cholesterol (p less than .001) and -3% for systolic BP (p less than .001). During the period 1974-79 the age-standardized CHD mortality of men aged 30-64 was reduced by 22% in North Karelia, 12% in the reference area and 11% in the rest of Finland (p less than .05 compared with NK).(ABSTRACT TRUNCATED AT 250 WORDS)
To test whether the cardiovascular disease declines in North Karelia were accompanied by subjective improvements in health, we analyzed responses to two questions about perceived risk of heart disease and health status on independent random population samples surveyed 10 years apart. Age stratified perceived risk of heart disease declined significantly more (p less than .01) and age stratified perceived health status improved significantly more in North Karelia than in the reference area (p less than .005).
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