Diabetes Runs Amok in Iran

Soon after the limited launch of IraPEN in March 2016, many became aware of their health conditions and diagnosed with NCDs like diabetes
More than five million people in the country suffer from diabetes.
More than five million people in the country suffer from diabetes.

The population of people with diabetes increases by 1% every year, highlighting the struggle of Iranian officials to curb the epidemic, according to the head of Iran’s Endocrine Research Center.

Based on official figures by the Health Ministry, 5.5 million people in the country suffer from diabetes and a further 5 million are in the prediabetes (or borderline diabetes) stage, which is when blood glucose level is above normal but not high enough to be classed as diabetes.

Speaking to ISNA, Fereydoun Azizi said in Tehran alone, 15% have diabetes while another 15% are borderline diabetics.

“A decade ago, 7% of people above 20 had type II diabetes, but that figure is now around 10%,” he said. “We’ve reached a point where the number of diabetics increases by 1% annually.”

At present more than 6% of all Iranians are borderline diabetics; however, the figure is not the same in all provinces.

Last year, there were 4.6 million diabetics in Iran, almost a million less than the current figure. By some estimates, the population of people in Iran suffering from diabetes will double by 2025.

 Health Ministry Measures

A key step taken by the ministry to help control and prevent noncommunicable diseases is the implementation of IraPEN—Iran’s adaptation of World Health Organization’s Package of Essential NCD interventions for primary health care.

Soon after the limited launch of the scheme in March 2016, many became aware of their health conditions and diagnosed with NCDs like diabetes. Also, those who were in the prediabetes stage received health consultations to manage their health problem.

Under the scheme, health workers teach people how to deal with NCDs and use affordable medicines to control their symptoms. People also receive consultations on practicing healthy habits like regular exercise and healthy diet to control their blood sugar.

IraPEN has been successfully piloted in four counties in four provinces: Kerman, East Azarbaijan, West Azarbaijan, and Isfahan. Last month, the plan’s nationwide scale-up began.

Under the plan thousands of people over age of 40 and some people between the ages of 20 and 40 are screened for NCDs and those who are diagnosed with diabetes, cancer, asthma or cardiovascular diseases, receive health services.

 Healthy Lifestyle

According to Azizi, between 10% and 20% of Iran’s population are physically active.

“A vast majority of people have little to no activity, and this paves the way for a multitude of diseases,” he said.

Furthermore, wrong dietary habits can increase the risk of developing cardiovascular diseases, diabetes and obesity. During the past few years, the Food and Drug Administration has urged manufacturers to reformulate products to contribute to a health-enabling environment by making healthier foods more available. Since 2016, Iran has introduced a ‘traffic light’ food labeling scheme; salt, sugar, and fat regulation; and restrictions on imports of palm oil or food containing it.

Subsequently, salt in fresh cheese has halved, from 4% to 2%. Levels of trans-fatty acids in cooking oils used at home, and by food industries, have been cut to below 2% and 5% as part of a push to reduce fats in Iranian diets by 10%. Sugar in flavored, carbonated or fruit drinks has fallen below 10%.

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