National Program Launched to Contain Obesity

The reasons leading to obesity usually include an increased intake  of energy-dense foods.The reasons leading to obesity usually include an increased intake  of energy-dense foods.

The Health Ministry’s Nutrition Improvement Office has launched a national model of the Early Childhood Obesity Prevention Program (ECHO) to curb the increasing trend of childhood obesity and overweight in the country.

It was devised and recommended by the World Health Organization as part of its Draft Implementation Plan proposed at this year’s 69th World Health Assembly to guide further action on the recommendations included in the Report of the Commission on Ending Childhood Obesity.

“The national model of ECHO is being piloted at six universities of medical sciences across the country which includes the guidelines for community-based interventions for prevention and control of obesity and overweight in children and young adolescents,” Dr. Zahara Abdollahi noted.

“Based on studies conducted by various departments, the rate of obesity and overweight is 24% in girls and 19% in boys aged 14-20 years old,” said  Abdollahi, head of the office, at a function on the subject in Gorgan, Golestan Province.

“In certain regions of Iran, the rate reaches 30%,” she added. The rate is 20% among children six years old and under.

A similar scheme is also underway to assess dietary patterns of the Iranian adult population at health stations across the country through health watches. The plan aims to reform the dietary patterns and reduce nutritional risk factors that contribute to obesity and, by extension, non-communicable diseases (NCDs).

  Worldwide Obesity

Worldwide obesity has more than doubled since 1980. In 2013, 42 million infants and young children in the world were overweight or obese. In 2014, more than 1.9 billion adults, 18 years and older, were overweight. Of these over 600 million were obese. It is estimated that 70 million young children will be overweight or obese by 2025 if the current trends continue.

The reasons leading to obesity usually include an increased intake of energy-dense foods that are high in fat; and an increase in physical inactivity due to the sedentary lifestyles and growing urbanization.

Raised BMI is a major risk factor for NCDs such as cardiovascular diseases (mainly heart disease and stroke), which are the leading cause of death in Iran, diabetes, musculoskeletal disorders, and some cancers (including endometrial, breast, ovarian, prostate, liver, gallbladder, kidney, and colon).


“Overweight and obesity, as well as the related NCDs, are largely preventable,” says Abdollahi. “Supportive policies, environments and communities are fundamental in shaping people’s choices of healthier foods and regular physical activity, thereby preventing overweight and obesity.”

The rate of increase in obesity is 30% higher in low and middle-income countries, than that of developed countries.

Experts have repeatedly said that exclusive breastfeeding from birth to 6 months of age is an important way to help prevent infants from becoming overweight or obese.

Reducing the proportion of overweight children is one of the six global nutrition targets aimed at improving maternal, infant and child nutrition by 2025.


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