Feb. 1, 2022

Professor emeritus continues global impact

Dr. Norm Campbell still fighting hypertension as part of numerous prestigious organizations
Dr. Norm Campbell
Dr. Norm Campbell

Dr. Norm Campbell, MD, professor emeritus at the University of Calgary's Cumming School of Medicine (CSM), continues to make a global impact on health. 

Campbell retired from clinical practice about 10 years ago, and has since dedicated his time to fighting hypertension, or high blood pressure, on a national and global level.

It’s important work, given that hypertension is the No. 1 risk factor for death globally, due to it being a major contributor to heart attacks, strokes, and other cardiovascular disease.

"Although I have missed seeing patients, the opportunity to work with amazing people around the world on health systems and policies that prevent, treat and control hypertension has been the highlight of my career," says Campbell. "Several countries are making very substantive changes providing an opportunity to save millions of lives. The global action is just starting to have an impact."

Campbell’s desire to impact population health on a global health sees him working with such organizations as the Resolve to Save Lives, the World Bank, the Pan American Health Organization, the World Health Organization, and the World Hypertension League.

He is a member of numerous expert panels, and a major contributor to numerous policies, guidance documents and programs aimed at assisting governments in helping reduce sodium intake in their populations and to control hypertension. Campbell led the World Hypertension League, International Society of Hypertension, and Resolve to Save Lives’ Global Call to Action on Dietary Sodium, to be released shortly. This call to action is supported by more than 70 national and international organizations.

Campbell also recently led the World Hypertension League São Paulo call to action for the prevention and control of high blood pressure: 2020 with the support of 47 international and national organizations.

Recently, Campbell co-authored a paper published in the prestigious New England Journal of Medicine that examined the links between sodium intake and cardiovascular disease. He is also co-author on a paper ‘in press’ in the Journal of the American Medical Association on the availability of automated blood pressure monitors that have not passed accuracy standards.

He also remains involved with Hypertension Canada, an organization he joined as a medical resident in 1982. In 2020, Campbell received the Senior Investigator Award from the organization to recognize his significant contributions to the advancement and extension of knowledge in research related to hypertension.

Campbell was motivated to tackle population-level hypertension research early on in his career. At that time, hypertension was a huge issue, with only 13 per cent of Canadians controlling their blood pressure and most people being unaware of their condition and/or not effectively treated.

“The light went on that we could do much better, and we should do much better,” says Campbell. “I started to examine how we could better control hypertension and realized that it is largely created by lifestyle and that we could prevent and control much of it by lowering sodium and eating healthy.”

Over his career, Campbell formed and transformed several research coalitions and contributed to national and international guidelines and policies with the goal of preventing high blood pressure.

His contributions, and those of his colleagues, helped raise the national hypertension control rate from 13 to 66 per cent between 2000 and 2010, making Canada the world leader in this area. Canada has the highest rates of control of hypertension and amongst the very lowest rates of hypertension in the world. 

Campbell notes that unfortunately attention and priority to hypertension control in Canada has fallen since 2010. Rates of control of hypertension in Canadian women are also falling with a corresponding and preventable impact on cardiovascular disease death and disability. 

“There is still much work to be done in Canada, other countries are advancing and making hypertension prevention and control a high priority,” he says.

Campbell, a third-generation physician, is still excited to be part of making a difference. He is also enjoying his retirement.

“I miss my close friends and colleagues and the environment at the University of Calgary,” he says. “But spending more time with family has been highly rewarding.”

Campbell is professor emeritus at the University of Calgary and a member of both the Libin Cardiovascular Institute and O’Brien Institute of Public Health.