National Atlas to Help Tackle Health Issues

Diabetes is a mounting concern in Iran and 10.3% of women and 8.5% of men are living with the condition, 9.9% in metropolitan and 7.8% in rural regions
President Hassan Rouhani receives the atlas from Health Minister Hassan Hashemi (L) as Interior Minister Abdolreza Rahmani-Fazli (R) looks on.President Hassan Rouhani receives the atlas from Health Minister Hassan Hashemi (L) as Interior Minister Abdolreza Rahmani-Fazli (R) looks on.

The National Atlas on Common Diseases was unveiled on Saturday by President Hassan Rouhani in the presence of ministers and health officials at the First National Health Assembly in Tehran.

It provides detailed and up-to-date data, mapping tools, and action guidelines for community health improvement for the 31 provinces. Different sections including life expectancy, obesity, stroke, diabetes and other non-communicable diseases (NCDs) should help policymakers, health care experts  and the media improve their understanding of the healthcare system.  

The atlas also forms the basis for many of the ongoing efforts to improve health and healthcare systems across Iran so as to enhance health indices, the Health Ministry news agency 'Webda' reported.

"This schematic diagram will help provincial policymakers to recommend and incorporate solutions to promote health status according to the necessities and the status quo in their respective regions," said Dr Mohammad Baqer Larijani, deputy health minister.

Although useful, the previously collected data on Iran's health sector as a whole were not applicable everywhere, he said. There are provinces with higher life expectancy and those with lower life expectancy than the national average, which could be due to a myriad of reasons that need to be addressed from a local viewpoint for effective measures to be taken.

Opening the conference, President Rouhani underscored the need to develop foreign relations to help bolster the national health sector.

"We cannot make progress on medicine and treatment without interaction with the world," the president was quoted by his official website as saying on Sunday.

His government requires foreign and private investment if it is to further develop the health sector effectively, Rouhani said.

  Provincial Data Disclosed

Health Minister Hassan Qazizadeh Hashemi addressing the assembly said NCDs have replaced communicable diseases over the past 50 years in causing premature deaths worldwide.

Obesity, unhealthy diets and lifestyles, smoking and consumption of alcohol are among the main contributors to developing NCDs.

According to the atlas, obesity rate is 29.76% among Iranian women and 15.29% among men. The rate increases to 24% and 19% respectively in urban regions. Women in the northern Mazandaran Province are the most obese in the nation.

When it comes to high blood pressure, the figure is interestingly lower among urbanites at 26.5% while it surges to 28.3% among rural dwellers. Noting that 28.19% of women and 28.31% of men have high blood pressure, Hashemi lamented the fact that 50% of them are not even aware of their worsening condition. Men of Kordestan Province take the lead in this category.

Diabetes is another mounting concern and 10.3% of women and 8.5% of men are living with the condition, 9.9% in metropolitan and 7.8% in rural regions. Semnan Province has the highest rate of diabetes.

Smoking tobacco and its products is another major factor in rising cardiovascular diseases and deaths in Iran. Almost 4% of women and one-fourth of men are tobacco users. Residents of Qazvin Province and those in the 45-54 age groups are regular consumers.

Coupled with low nutritional value, high fat, calorie and sodium content, fast foods are the big evil today. With evidence to prove weight gain, obesity, diabetes and cardiovascular conditions, regularly eating fast food is a serious contributing factor to premature mortality.

In Iran, 11% of women and 15% of men consume fast food. Yazd Province is among the top with the highest consumption rates of fast food. On the other hand, people in the southern Bushehr Province are the top consumers of fruits and vegetables. However, Bushehr has the lowest physical activity.

"The Health Ministry has plans to improve the overall health status and decrease NCD incidence by promoting healthy diets and lifestyles over a 10-15 year period," Hashemi said.

  Promoting Organic Products

Agriculture Minister Mohsen Hojjati, also present at the confab, said his ministry has prioritized use of organic and vegan products to safeguard people's health.

"A total of 1,000 plant pathology clinics staffed with over 4,000 specialists are operating across the country to ensure the safety of agricultural products," he said.

Plant pathology or phytopathology is the scientific study of diseases in plants caused by pathogens (infectious organisms) and environmental conditions (physiological factors). Organisms that cause infectious disease include fungi, oomycetes, bacteria, viruses, viroids, virus-like organisms, phytoplasmas, protozoa, nematodes and parasitic plants.

"These clinics also examine fertilizers used in farmlands to ensure end users' wellbeing," Hojjati noted.

Interior Minister Abdolreza Rahmani-Fazli, a keynote speaker, stressed cooperation among all state bodies and a community-led approach to health.

The First National Health Assembly was held to bring together government, experts and specialists, and people in efforts to boost public health and lower the burden of common diseases in the country.

It was organized under the auspices of the Supreme Council of Health and Food Security headed by the president.

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