Cardiovascular disease risk reduction in rural China – policy recommendations

Cardiovascular disease (CVD) is the leading cause of morbidity and mortality worldwide. In China, CVD accounts for 38% of total mortality. CVD events are predicted to increase by 23% from 2010 to 2030, resulting in an additional 21.3 million CVD events and 7.7 million deaths. Meta-analysis has indicated that CVD risk reduction by treating hypertension or diabetes is not sufficient. A comprehensive approach based on drug therapies and lifestyle is needed. Based on preliminary effects of an exploratory study, in a rural primary healthcare setting in Zhejiang, China, we initiated a pragmatic, cluster randomised controlled trial (cRCT) to assess the health effects of the interventions over 2 years.
This is, to our knowledge, the first pragmatic cRCT that implements a comprehensive package at the primary healthcare level for high CVD risk hypertensive or diabetic patients.
Findings (all compared with control arm)

  • Better drug adherence in the intervention arm (66% vs. 47%);
  • Smoking rates were significantly reduced in the intervention arm (4% reduced vs. 2% increased);
  • More patients in the intervention arm took less salt (50% vs. 34%);
  • Patients in the intervention arm reported drinking less alcohol and had more exercise (32% vs. 15%, and 31% vs. 18%, respectively);
  • Prescribing and taking of statins and aspirin, and prescribing (but not taking) of anti-hypertensives, were substantially higher.


  1. Raising coverage for essential medicines for hypertension and diabetes in primary care facilities;
  2. More intensive training of doctors;
  3. Innovative patient education;
  4. Improved health insurance cover for outpatients.

For more information, contact Simin Deng at:
This brief is informed by the following research:

  1. Zou G, Wei X, Gong W, Yin J, Walley J, Yu Y, et al. (2014) Evaluation of a systematic cardiovascular disease risk reduction strategy in primary healthcare: an exploratory study from Zhejiang, China. Journal of Public Health. 2(1): 241-250.
  2. Wei X, Zou G, Gong W, Jia Y, Yu Y, Walley J, et al. (2013)Cardiovascular disease risk reduction in rural China: a clustered randomized controlled trial in Zhejiang. Trials. 14: 354.
  3. Wei X, Walley J, Zhang Z, Zou G, Gong W, Deng S, et al. (2017) Implementation of a comprehensive intervention for patients at high risk of cardiovascular disease in rural China: a pragmatic cluster randomized controlled trial. PLoS One. 12(8).

This project was funded with UK aid from the UK government.

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