Assessing awareness and knowledge of hypertension in an at-risk population in the Karen ethnic rural community, Thasongyang, Thailand

Int J Gen Med. 2012;5:553-61. doi: 10.2147/IJGM.S29406. Epub 2012 Jun 27.


Background: Hypertension is currently a global health concern. Rural and minority populations are increasingly exposed to risk factors as a result of urbanization, leading to hypertension and cardiovascular disease. We conducted a survey in the rural Karen community in Thasongyang District, Tak Province, Thailand, with the aims of determining: the distribution of blood pressure across different age groups; the prevalence of hypertension and other risk factors for cardiovascular diseases (CVDs), including diabetes, smoking, sedentary lifestyle, and excess alcohol use; knowledge and awareness of hypertension as a disease; and knowledge and awareness of risk factors for hypertension among the population at risk.

Methods: This was a community-based, cross-sectional survey of 298 rural Karen residents. A set of questionnaires assessing lifestyle-related health risk behaviors and awareness and knowledge of hypertension were used. Blood pressure, fasting plasma glucose, weight, height, and waist circumference were measured.

Results: Median systolic and diastolic blood pressures were 110 (range 100-120) mmHg and 70 (range 60-80) mmHg, respectively. High blood pressure was observed in more than 27% of the population, with 15% being hypertensive and 12% being prehypertensive. Multinomial logistic regression analysis showed that people in the Karen community who were aware of hypertension were less likely to be current smokers (odds ratio [OR] 0.53, confidence interval [CI] 0.29-0.97) and those with primary school education were more likely to be aware of hypertension than those who did not have a primary school education (OR 6.5, CI 1.9-22.24). Overall, our survey showed that less than half of the Karen community had such knowledge and awareness.

Conclusion: It is urgently necessary to promote knowledge, awareness, and health literacy among the ethnic Karen tribes to prevent hypertension and associated CVDs.

Keywords: CVDs; Karen; awareness; hypertension; knowledge; smoking.