TEHRAN, Iran — Noncommunicable diseases like cardiovascular disorders and cancer are currently the most widespread and harmful diseases in Iran. Cardiovascular disease is the most common, killing 100,000 Iranians each year, while chronic kidney disease also poses a serious health threat to the entire nation.
In 2009, the Tehran Lipid and Glucose Study found chronic kidney disease to be prevalent among 13.1 percent of 4,223 male participants and 23 percent of the 5,880 female participants. The illness was most common among participants aged 70 and older.
The study also found coronary artery disease to be prevalent among a total of 21.8 percent of 5,984 men and women aged 30 years and older. According to data from the World Health Organization, coronary artery disease accounts for 29.09 percent of all deaths in Iran.
Risk factors associated with both illnesses include hypertension, obesity, smoking and diabetes. Generally, chronic kidney disease and coronary artery disease are preventable through a healthy diet and exercise.
Infectious diseases, although less widespread in recent decades, also pose a definite threat to health in Iran. Top infectious diseases in Iran include Hepatitis, HIV, tuberculosis and human brucellosis.
Iran has been classified as a country with “intermediate prevalence” of Hepatitis. Hepatitis A and B are most common, affecting 1.5 million Iranians, 15 to 40 percent of whom are at higher risk of developing cirrhosis and hepatocellular carcinoma.
Iran has the world’s highest rate of STD infections, and prevalence of HIV has increased substantially in the last decade. Between 2002 and 2013, the number of people with HIV increased by 80 percent each year with a nine-fold growth overall. What is perhaps most concerning, according to Kamiar Alaei, alumni from Harvard University, is the fact that around 70 percent of the estimated 100,000 people infected are unaware that they even have the disease.
More patients are contracting HIV from intercourse than drug use, a shift that the Iranian educational system has yet to fully acknowledge. However, Iran has taken important steps in expanding AIDS services. Between 2008 and 2012 the number of health facilities offering antiretroviral medicines in Iran rose from 86 to 290, and these services are provided at no cost to the patients.
Tuberculosis, with a prevalence of 23 cases per 100,000 people, is also a problem in Iran. Twenty-seven percent of patients with tuberculosis also are HIV-positive, and it is the leading cause of death among HIV-infected patients.
Human brucellosis, another bacterial disease contracted by consuming raw milk or soft cheese, is endemic throughout all of Iran. It is particularly prevalent in rural areas, where much of the population is in close contact with domestic animals.
Iran’s healthcare system has struggled to keep up with the rapidly-changing demographics, and as a result, some rural areas are inadequately covered. However, Iran has substantially improved its health standardsin the last three decades, and more than 85 percent of the population in rural regions has access to primary healthcare services.
The most important targets for healthcare policy in Iran currently are diet and physiological risk factors. Increasing awareness of diseases in Iran — both noncommunicative and infectious — will aid in their prevention and treatment. Strengthening the current health information system to evaluate current programs will also enact further improvement in Iran’s health care policy, making it possible for the government to better meet the needs of its population.
– Liliana Rehorn