Risk of cardiovascular disease among teachers in Cape Town: Findings of the South African PaCT pilot study
Background. The accelerating epidemic of cardiovascular disease (CVD) and other non-communicable diseases (NCDs) highlights the need to establish long-term cohort studies in Africa.
Objective. The Partnership for Cohort Research and Training (PaCT) seeks to study NCDs in South Africa (SA), Uganda, Tanzania and Nigeria on a long-term basis. Pilot studies at each site have tested feasibility. The SA site additionally studied the prevalence of CVD risk factors and categorised participants’ 10-year predicted risk of a cardiovascular event.
Methods. We enrolled teachers from 111 public schools in the Metro South Education District in Cape Town, SA, between January 2011 and May 2012. Participants completed a self-administered questionnaire and biological measurements, and chose post or email for 6-month follow-up.
Results. The participation of schools was permitted by 53.2% of principals, and 489 of 1 779 teachers agreed to participate. Of teachers willing to participate in the follow-up, 52% were retained, three-quarters by post and a quarter by email. Their mean age was 46.3 years and 70.3% were female. The prevalence of CVD risk factors was high and featured hypertension (48.5%), hypercholesterolaemia (20.5%), smoking (18.0%), diabetes (10.1%) and chronic kidney disease (10.4%), while 84.7% were overweight or obese. Of the participants, 18.7% were at high risk of a heart attack or stroke within 10 years.
Conclusion. Establishing a cohort study among teachers has challenges but also opportunities for addressing CVD, which will soon impose a substantial burden on Cape Town’s education system.