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For World Hypertension Day 2024, explore how the National Institute for Health and Care Research (NIHR) Applied Research Collaboration Oxford and Thames Valley (ARC OxTV) is enhancing blood pressure management through innovative research projects, including SNAP2, SHIP, MyPregnancyCare, and the DAPHNY app.

May 17 marks World Hypertension Day, dedicated to raising awareness about high blood pressure – a condition affecting millions globally and leading to serious health issues like heart disease and stroke.

We support a wide range of research into hypertension. For World Hypertension Day, we highlight four current projects showcasing the diversity and impact of our work on this critical health issue.

SNAP2: Supporting New Mums with High Blood Pressure

Each year, many women in the UK experience high blood pressure during pregnancy, which can lead to serious complications. The SNAP2 study aims to help these women better manage their blood pressure after giving birth. Researchers are developing a programme that includes self-monitoring of blood pressure at home, adjusting medications as needed, and receiving support through digital tools. The goal is to see if this program can improve long-term blood pressure control, reduce the risk of heart problems, and save healthcare costs.

SHIP: Using Technology to Manage High Blood Pressure

The SHIP study is a service evaluation of the real-world use of a digital tool called 'Hypertension Plus', which is based on research conducted in the Nuffield dept of primary Care Health Sciences, where the ARC OxTV is based. This tool enables patients and their doctors to collaboratively monitor blood pressure using at-home devices and mobile phones, with the system sending reminders and alerts to help patients adhere to their treatment plan. The study aims to determine if this technology can effectively control blood pressure, streamline the workload for healthcare providers, explore the challenges they might face with this new technology, and reduce costs for the healthcare system.

MyPregnancyCare: Empowering Women in Hypertensive Pregnancies

Hypertensive disorders affect roughly 10% of pregnancies, posing serious health risks to both mother and baby. The MyPregnancyCare project, led by researchers in the Nuffield Department of Primary Care Health Sciences, aims to develop a comprehensive digital app to support women with these conditions. The app includes features for blood pressure tracking, urine testing for protein (important for diagnosing pre-eclampsia), and information about hypertension and medications. Developed through feedback from pregnant women, healthcare professionals, and other stakeholders, the app is user-friendly and effective. It empowers women to actively monitor their health, enhances communication with healthcare teams, and potentially improves pregnancy outcomes. A feasibility trial is set for later this year, marking a significant step towards better management of hypertensive pregnancy through digital health solutions.

DAPHNY: Lifestyle Interventions for High-Risk Pregnancies

A screenshot from the DAPHNY appThe DAPHNY (Diet and Activity for Pregnancy Hypertension) project focuses on improving lifestyle interventions for pregnant women with pre-existing health conditions such as hypertension and diabetes. The project involved a comprehensive review of existing lifestyle interventions and guidelines, along with qualitative research involving healthcare professionals and pregnant women. The findings led to the development of the DAPHNY App, which helps manage blood pressure during pregnancy through diet and activity modifications. This holistic approach to health management during pregnancy aims to support and promote healthy behaviours, improving outcomes for both mothers and babies.

A Commitment to Patient Involvement

A key strength across these studies is the involvement of patients as partners in the research process. Our researchers are committed to involving patients and the public, not just as study participants, but also as advisors who help guide the research itself. Patients bring valuable expertise and lived experiences to our work, ensuring that it remains relevant, addresses the things that matter most to those affected, and is conducted in an ethical and accessible manner. All four projects include patient and public involvement members in either their trial management groups or oversight committees.

For instance, the SNAP2 study works closely with organisations such as The Motherhood Group, Action on Pre-eclampsia, Birth Companions, and the Muslim Women's Network to ensure that the research, intervention, and study materials are sensitive and suitable for women from diverse backgrounds.  Their input has been invaluable throughout the research process, from the design of the intervention itself, to plans for dissemination of findings. By actively engaging with patient and community groups, SNAP2 hopes to develop an intervention that is not only effective but also usable and accessible to the women it seeks to support.

Impacting Patient Care and Healthcare Policy

These studies have the potential to significantly improve patient care and inform healthcare policies. SNAP2 could inform targeted interventions for women with hypertensive pregnancies, potentially reducing their long-term cardiovascular risk. The SHIP study could support wider implementation of digital self-monitoring and self-management services in primary care. MyPregnancyCare aims to empower women to manage their health during hypertensive pregnancies, while DAPHNY seeks to integrate lifestyle modifications into routine care for pregnant women with hypertension.

Understanding and managing high blood pressure can save lives. Through research like SNAP2, SHIP, MyPregnancyCare, and DAPHNY, NIHR ARC OxTV and the Nuffield Department of Primary Care Health Sciences continue to contribute valuable insights into hypertension management, ultimately aiming to improve patient care and health outcomes in the UK and worldwide.

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