Comprehensive plan underway to control obesity among students

November 1, 2020 - 20:15

TEHRAN – The Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Education are implementing a comprehensive plan aimed at controlling obesity among students nationwide.

This program is based on the national nutrition plan for overweight and obese students, which has been developed by the office of community nutrition improvement and announced to the country's medical universities, Zahra Abdollahi, director of the community nutrition improvement office of the Ministry of Health said, IRNA reported.

Nutrition experts, in interaction with education experts, are required to provide nutrition counseling and diet adjustment services to obese students identified by school teachers and health care providers who referred to comprehensive health care centers, she explained.

With the implementation of the program, the height, weight, and body mass index of 14 million students in the country will be determined, to reduce the prevalence of obesity among students through extensive education and use of all available capacities in the field of healthy nutrition and promotion of physical activity, which are a risk factor for underlying diseases such as diabetes, fatty liver, high blood pressure, cardiovascular disease, and even an increased risk of developing COVID-19, she highlighted.

She went on to say that today, the problem of overweight and obesity in children and adolescents aged 5 to 18 years has become a common issue in the world and is increasing rapidly.

Obesity is due to a change in diet and consumption of high-energy foods with low nutritional value, snacks high in sugar, salt, and fat, insufficient consumption of fiber-rich foods, and on the other hand, reduced physical activity, and stress, she stated.

Adverse effects of obesity in childhood and adolescence include an increased risk of type 2 diabetes, hyperlipidemia, fatty liver, hypertension, asthma, respiratory problems, and cardiovascular disease, she lamented.

According to the results of national surveys, about 20 percent of students are overweight and obese, and about 21 percent suffer from abdominal obesity.

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, Shahram Rafiei-Far, head of education and promotion affairs at the Ministry of Health said in October 2019.

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, he stated.

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

300,000 Iranians die of NCDs annually

In February 2019, the health ministry announced that some 300,000 Iranians die of NCDs annually in Iran, which means that one-fourth of the country’s population (standing at 80 million) are overweight or obese which also results in developing NCDs.

Diabetes, non-communicable diseases, is a serious threat to people’s health and is the fifth leading cause of death in the country. Diabetes prevalence is 10 percent in Iran and is high among people aging 50 or more.

Cardiovascular diseases (mainly heart disease and stroke), which were the leading cause of death in 2012, diabetes, musculoskeletal disorders (especially osteoarthritis – a highly disabling degenerative disease of the joints), and some cancers (including endometrial, breast, ovarian, prostate, liver, gallbladder, kidney, and colon) are common health consequences of overweight and obesity, WHO warns.

Having too much sugar in the blood for long periods of time can contribute to serious health problems if it's not treated. Hyperglycemia can damage the vessels that supply blood to vital organs, which can increase the risk of heart disease and stroke, kidney disease, vision problems, and nerve problems.

Moreover, 30 percent of men and 36 percent of women aged 25 to 64 years also have high cholesterol due to overweight and obesity, consuming fast food, and insufficient physical activity.

NCDs, a global health threat

NCDs kill 41 million people each year, equivalent to 71% of all deaths globally. Each year, 15 million people die from an NCD between the ages of 30 and 69 years; over 85% of these "premature" deaths occur in low- and middle-income countries.

Cardiovascular diseases account for most NCD deaths, or 17.9 million people annually, followed by cancers (9.0 million), respiratory diseases (3.9million), and diabetes (1.6 million). These 4 groups of diseases account for over 80% of all premature NCD deaths.

Tobacco use, physical inactivity, the harmful use of alcohol, and unhealthy diets all increase the risk of dying from an NCD. Detection, screening, and treatment of NCDs, as well as palliative care, are key components of the response to NCDs.


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