Role in NCDs Prevention, Control Appreciated

Role in NCDs Prevention, Control Appreciated  Role in NCDs Prevention, Control Appreciated

Until 60 years ago, communicable diseases were killing thousands of people on an annual basis, but over the past six decades, non-communicable diseases are leading in premature deaths, said Assistant Director-General for Non-communicable Diseases and Mental Health at the World Health Organization, Dr. Oleg Chestnov.

He was addressing the international conference on Prevention and Control of Non-Communicable Diseases on Sunday in Tehran.

Health Minister Hassan Qazizadeh Hashemi, deputy health minister for education and deputy chief of the Iranian Non-Communicable Diseases Prevention Committee Baqer Larijani and WHO Representative in Iran Dr. Samin Sediqi and Director-General for International Affairs Mohsen Asadi-Lari, were present, Khabaronline reported.

“Iran is among the top 10 countries in implementing measures in NCDs prevention and control,” said Chestnov.

Referring to the UN High-Level Meeting on NCDs in September 2011 in New York that brokered an international commitment, he said Iran has taken great strides since then to curb NCDs.

The Political Declaration on NCDs was adopted by the UN General Assembly in April 2011 when member states pledged to intensify efforts towards a world free of NCDs, which claim the lives of three in five people worldwide.

Every year, 38 million people across the world die due to NCDS, said Larijani, many of them before they reach the age of 70. Most of these largely preventable deaths occur in developing countries, where the disease burden threatens to undermine social and economic development.

  National Document

It may be recalled that the National Document in Prevention and Control of NCDs was signed by 11 ministers and vice presidents and unveiled on July 22, 2015 in the presence of WHO Director-General Margaret Chan during her visit to Tehran. It was ratified later by the government and took effect in February this year.

“The preliminary steps were taken for drafting the document during the first round of Chestnov’s visit to Iran in April 2015, and the National Committee on NCDs was formed headed by Health Minister Hashemi,” said Asadi-Lari.

The document is projected to reduce deaths from NCDs by 25% within ten years, and its execution will be assessed by the WHO over the next two years.

WHO had earlier developed a global monitoring framework to enable tracking of progress in preventing and controlling the four major NCDs - cardiovascular disease, cancer, chronic lung diseases and diabetes - and their key risk factors.

The framework comprises nine global targets and 25 indicators. It also targets a 25% reduction in premature mortality from NCDs by 2025.

UN member states reaffirmed their commitment to take measures to reduce the avoidable burden of NCDs at another high-level meeting on July 10-11, 2014 in New York. The meeting took stock of the progress made in implementing the commitments in the 2011 Political Declaration on NCDs, identify and address gaps and reaffirm the political commitment in response to the challenge of NCDs.

Member states pledged to intensify efforts to combat the growing menace of NCDs. They acknowledged that progress has been too slow and uneven and pledged to better protect the lives of their people.

  Time for Action

“It’s not a matter of devising a roadmap to prevent and control NCDs in Iran anymore, but a matter of acting and implementing, and the question of how we are going to do it,” said Sediqi.

The prevalence rate of NCDs is not higher than the global average, said Larijani and the country “actually stands below the global rates in terms of diabetes and neoplasm, but must address issues such as traffic accidents that take a high toll on a daily basis.”

Some areas that need immediate and effective policy making at the national level, are obesity (30% of women and 17% of men are obese), physical activity, and encouraging healthy diets and nutrition that play a crucial role in prevention of NCDs, he added.

Among successful measures taken in line with curtailing NCDs over the last two years, Hashemi cited increasing access to medicines across the country, connecting rural and urban healthcare networks, an increase in average life expectancy, and imposing tobacco taxes (imported, locally produced, and joint ventures).

“Salt and sodium use is planned to be reduced by 30% by 2025, and half of the projected target (15%) must be achieved by 2018,” said head of the Food and Drug Administration, Rasoul Dinarvand, ISNA reported.

  Curbs on Ads

“The current rates of salt, sugar, and fat intake are alarming in the country, and sugar consumption has increased by 30%. However, we have taken steps to address the issue.”

As of this year, all companies producing harmful products are banned from advertising on mass media or billboards. Additionally, producers of healthy food products will be introduced and commended by the FDA.

It is almost 20 months since the directive on installing ‘traffic light’ tags on all food products was issued by the FDA. The labels carry information indicating how much fat, salt, sugar and trans fat an item contains. Over 60% of all food products across the country now have nutrition tags, while in some provinces 100% coverage has been achieved.

“We have managed to reduce salt in food products by 10%, and bring down salt proportion in cheese and bread to 2% and 1.8% from 4% and 2% respectively. We also cut sugar in sodas and juices by 10%,” Dinarvand pointed out.

“Iran’s policy is international cooperation, and we welcome collaborations and exchange of knowhow as well as experience in slowing down the rate of NCDs through effective preventive measures,” Asadi-Lari said.