Background: Previous studies indicate that clinical guidelines using combined risk evaluation for cardiovascular diseases (CVD) may overestimate risk. The aim of this study was to model and discuss implementation of the current (2007) hypertension guidelines in a general Norwegian population.
Methods: Implementation of the current European Guidelines for the Management of Arterial Hypertension was modelled on data from a cross-sectional, representative Norwegian population study (The Nord-Trøndelag Health Study 1995-97), comprising 65,028 adults, aged 20-89, of whom 51,066 (79%) were eligible for modelling.
Results: Among individuals with blood pressure >or=120/80 mmHg, 93% (74% of the total, adult population) would need regular clinical attention and/or drug treatment, based on their total CVD risk profile. This translates into 296,624 follow-up visits/100,000 adults/year. In the Norwegian healthcare environment, 99 general practitioner (GP) positions would be required in the study region for this task alone. The number of GPs currently serving the adult population in the study area is 87 per 100,000 adults.
Conclusion: The potential workload associated with the European hypertension guidelines could destabilise the healthcare system in Norway, one of the world's most long- and healthy-living nations, by international comparison. Large-scale, preventive medical enterprises can hardly be regarded as scientifically sound and ethically justifiable, unless issues of practical feasibility, sustainability and social determinants of health are considered.