Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)



First Advisor

Sarah E. Abrams


Cardiovascular disease (CVD) worldwide has grown exponentially in the last two decades and while sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) has been grappling with the crippling effects of epidemic infectious diseases such as HIV/AIDS and malaria, cardiovascular disease is now emerging as a grievous concern. Research and resources have largely been directed toward understanding and curtailing infectious diseases in the African continent. But as the risk of cardiovascular disease reaching endemic proportions in sub-Saharan Africa becomes more evident, research is critically needed in order to understand how to manage it and more importantly to direct the development and implementations of culturally relevant prevention strategies.

The risks and effects of CVD are present in both men and women across the globe, but there are differences in their occurrence based on gender that are worth considering. Women in sub-Saharan Africa, who are already burdened with the disadvantage of access to health care by virtue of their gender alone, are likely to be most adversely affected by CVD. Socioeconomic status (SES), epidemiologic transition and urbanization, lifestyle changes, and gender-based violence are all factors implicated in the compounded risk for CVD among women in this region.

To understand how women in a sub-Saharan region perceive CVD and its risk factors, this descriptive phenomenological study set out to answer the following research question: How do Kenyan women perceive the modifiable risk factors for CVD? Furthermore, how do they perceive its effects on their lives and their families? Two samples from central Kenya representing an urban and rural area were selected and interviewed in a focus group setting.

A number of themes were extrapolated from the interviews. The modifiable risk factors were perceived to be independent of CVD. Diet modification and physical activity were found to be helpful in controlling these diseases but clear understanding on their effects on overall cardiovascular health was lacking. Cigarette smoking generated the least discussion because none of the women were smokers. The effects of having either hypertension or type two diabetes included financial cost, emotional burden on the women and their families, and the concern of losing a breadwinner from disease or illness.

These results have implications in nursing practice, public health, primary care provision, and national and global policies. They also shed light on areas of potential consideration in prevention program design and implementation. Awareness, though felt by the women to be slowly gaining in Kenya, is key to disease prevention. There is limited research on this subject matter in SSA and more studies are needed to understand the scope and effects of CVD in this region.



Number of Pages

79 p.