Pensions and low sodium salt: A qualitative evaluation of a new strategy for managing hypertension in rural South Africa

Peter Lloyd-Sherlock, Francesc X. Gómez-Olivé, Sizzy Ngobeni, Ryan G. Wagner, Stephen Tollman

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BACKGROUND: This paper describes a pilot study to assess the feasibility of a novel intervention to improve the management of hypertension among older people in rural South Africa. Older South Africans have the highest rates of uncontrolled hypertension recorded for any country. Notably, South Africa has a widely-available old age grant (pension), which is delivered on a monthly basis to citizens living in rural villages. 

METHODS: We assessed the feasibility of engaging with older people at the point of pension delivery in the Agincourt sub-district of Mpumalanga Province. This included providing information about hypertension, measuring blood pressure, referral to primary care services, and providing a monthly supply of low sodium salt. We recruited 20 people aged 60 and over to participate in the pilot intervention, which was conducted over three months in two villages. Towards the end of the intervention, we conducted focus groups with study participants and held a meeting with local stakeholders, including the district health office and the state social security agency. 

RESULTS: The pilot study demonstrated (i) Sustained engagement with the original 20 participants. Of these, 19 continued to participate in the intervention during subsequent monthly pension days. (ii) A high level of acceptance of the low sodium salt product reflected in repeat usage and comments made in the focus groups. (iii) Strong support for the intervention and a willingness to collaborate with local stakeholders. (iv) A perception among participants that symptoms they associated with hypertension had abated. This is supported by blood pressure readings made over the three months of follow-up. 

CONCLUSION: Though limited in scope, this pilot study provided evidence of the feasibility of the intervention and justification for it to be tested on a larger and more robust basis.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)140-146
Number of pages7
JournalCurrent Aging Science
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2018


  • Agincourt
  • Hypertension
  • intervention
  • older people
  • pensions.
  • South Africa

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