Over 5 million health ambassadors trained in Iran

October 2, 2019

TEHRAN – Over 5 million health ambassadors have been trained and educated in the country to help eliminate diseases or reduce the burden of illnesses on the society, head of education and promotion affairs at the Ministry of Health has announced.

It is planned to promote equitable healthcare provision in the community by enhancing the quality of education and developing health ambassadors' participation in the health care system, Shahram Rafiei-Far stated.

A study on the non-communicable disease and its risk factors conducted in the Iranian calendar year of 1395 (March 2016- March 2017), shows that 11.9 percent of the population suffers from diabetes, 27.9 percent have high triglycerides and the prevalence of hypertension in Iran is 26.4 percent that is caused by high salt intake.

Some 10.4 percent of Iranians consume a high amount of salt, which will increase hypertension, and myocardial infarction, he said, adding, by reducing salt intake to less than 5 grams a day, the risk of stroke can be reduced to one third in society.

 Also, the results of the survey showed that 56.3 percent of the people are physically inactive, while 22.7 percent are suffering obesity, he noted.

To promote health, each adult should eat at least 2 servings of fruits and 3 servings of vegetables each day, however, only 17.2 percent of the population consumes fruits properly and the rate of vegetable intake is 42.1 percent, he explained. 

He went on to say that fast food consumption and the risk of overweight and obesity is among various dietary factors, as out-of-home eating patterns have been more common in the past few years; some 12.7 percent of the people are consuming fast food. 

He also added that unfortunately, 10 percent of Iranians smoke (0.9 percent of women and 20 percent of men).

National Self-Care Program

A large part of all these lifestyle-related risk factors and diseases can be prevented and controlled by self-care, which is a personal and social right and responsibility, he highlighted.

Self-care includes acquired, conscious and purposeful actions that people do at home, at work, and in the community to take care of their health, family and community, meet their physical, mental and social needs, prevent illnesses or accidents as well as managing chronic illnesses, and protecting their health after an acute illness or hospital discharge, he also explained.

“On the other hand, the health literacy rate in Iran, according to a study conducted 5 years ago, showed that one out of two Iranians has limited health literacy.

Consequences of poor literacy may include self-care skills, less use of prevention services, poor health choices, delayed diagnosis, less understanding of medical conditions, less adherence to medical guidelines, increased risk of hospitalization, poorer physical and mental health, increased risk of death and higher health care costs, he added.

To promote public health literacy and improve health culture, the National Self-Care Program was prepared by education and promotion affairs at the Ministry of Health to educate volunteers from each family, neighborhood, and training center as health ambassadors.

Under the program, one person in each family is selected as a household health ambassador (a volunteer passed at least school’s 8th grade) and trained by a health team that includes a physician, midwife, health care provider, and health worker to take care of their health, family, peers and community.

Community-based interventions represent one public health approach to managing and preventing chronic diseases such as diabetes in high-risk populations which is done through the program,” said Rafiei-Far.

He pointed out that a set of self-care guides, including a self-care guide on minor illness, cancer, heart and brain stroke risk guide, was developed to guide health ambassadors in this regard.

“For example, in the Self-Care Guide for minor diseases, each age groups of mothers, infants, children, adolescents, and adults are provided with different issues such as breastfeeding, jaundice, newborn umbilical cord care, diaper rash, infant crying, runny nose, cough, infant skin changes, immunization and so on.

Learning and using self-care guide content to take care of your health, family, peers, and community, transfer health information and knowledge from health bases to family and friends, observe their lifestyles are among the ambassador’s activities,” he added.

The ambassadors are responsible for cutting tobacco use and control behaviors such as anger and stress, as well as referring the family members to health care providers and physicians, he concluded.

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