Experts from China and Australia Congregate in Beijing to promote SSaSS Study

On May 15th the Chinese ‘Salt Substitute and Stroke Study’ (SSaSS) held its first annual meeting at Yanqi Lake. More than 50 participants joined the meeting to report on the progress of the study and to exchange their various experiences.

Participants included principal investigators from China and Australia, local project investigators, project coordinators and experts from provincial centers for disease control as well as representatives from local health care systems.

The SSaSS study is a five-year, large scale randomized controlled trial (RCT) and aims to find out if the low-sodium salt substitute can reduce the morbidity and mortality of stroke.

Study Investigator Professor Bruce Neal, of The George Institute for Global Health Australia, and Professor Yangfeng Wu, of The George Institute for Global Health at Peking University Health Science Center, gave welcome remarks to express gratitude to all the team members for their hard work and support over the year.

“During the first year of the project it took the local study teams eight months to complete the screening and recruitment of 21,000 rural patients, which was originally planned to be completed in twelve months. This has been a great accomplishment by the team.”

“Our next step will be more complex, that is, to do the follow up with all the patients. Yet working with such a professional team under support of local partners, I have confidence in our future work and the final result.”

Professor Neal also used the opportunity to discuss the importance of the study, and its implications.

“There has been some doubt recently about the effect that salt reduction has on health, and the possible harms. These observational studies have deficiencies, but still arouse the public’s doubt about salt reduction. Our study will meet the challenge of this doubt.”

Professor Wu further explained that reducing salt intake could lower blood pressure and that this had undoubtedly been proved by a great number of observational studies and clinical trials at population level.

“Making conclusions based only on the results from observational studies and claiming that salt reduction is harmful for health or even cause death, is unreliable. We need to adopt the RCT method to eliminate the confounding factors to obtain the best scientific results.”

“We are using this globally recognised method to prove our assumption. We are working as a group to promote population health and believe that a high-quality result will not only benefit the local population, but also have an impact on the health of people across the country, or even around the world.”

In 2014, The George Institute for Global Health at Peking University Health Science Center, coordinated with China Medical University, Hebei Center for Diseases Control, Changzhi Medical College, Xi’an Jiaotong University and Ningxia Medical University to launch the ‘China Salt Substitute and Stroke Study’ (SSaSS) in Liaoning, Hebei, Shanxi, Shaan’xi and Ningxia Autonomous Region. The study recruited 21,000 high risk patients with stroke and hypertension from 600 villages in northern China, who were randomized into control and intervention groups at 1:1. Coordinated by the local health and academic institutes, the study provided the patients and their families in the intervention group with salt substitute for free to replace their regular salt for five years.