Azerbaijan preparing for nationwide survey to assess risk factors for NCDs

Public Health and Reforms Center of the Ministry of Health of Azerbaijan/ Ayten Mammadova

Participants of the STEPS training practice taking and analyzing blood samples

Azerbaijan is preparing to conduct a nationwide survey to assess the prevalence of the risk factors for noncommunicable diseases (NCDs) – tobacco, alcohol, physical inactivity and dietary habits. The STEPwise approach to surveillance (STEPS) survey will take place throughout Azerbaijan and will include 2881 households, covering the majority of districts in the country. STEPS is a WHO-recommended representative study on risk factors of major NCDs.

In preparation for this initiative, supervisors and data collectors attended an intensive 5-day training course in Baku. A nationwide STEPS survey was conducted in 2011. The 2017 survey will therefore be the second to be conducted in the country. The second round survey will provide the opportunity to compare results and determine changes, if any, in the prevalence of behavioural risk factors of NCDs and in policies associated with them.

The national survey team from the Public Health and Reforms Centre of the Ministry of Health of Azerbaijan was trained on the following aspects:

  • understanding of NCDs, the main risk factors of NCDs and STEPS;
  • STEPS survey data collection methods and questionnaire, and their adaptation to the local context;
  • measurement and data recording procedures of step 2 of the survey (measurement of blood pressure, height, weight and waist and hip circumference);
  • measurement and data recording procedures of step 3 of the survey (measuring blood glucose, total cholesterol and high density lipoprotein);
  • implementation of the pilot data collection at out-patient clinics and their evaluation.

The training was conducted by WHO experts from headquarters and the WHO European Office for the Prevention and Control of Noncommunicable Diseases (NCD Office), financed through a voluntary contribution from the Government of the Russian Federation.

About the STEPS survey

The STEPS survey is an internationally comparable, highly standardized and integrated tool that WHO Member States implement for the surveillance of NCD risk factors. It is a simple and affordable method of assessing the prevalence of key NCD risk factors in the population, as well as the performance of health systems in addressing NCDs. STEPS survey data are helping policy-makers and health professionals to determine the national prevalence and patterns of risk factors, allowing them to define policies and programmes for the prevention and control of NCDs. Countries can use the survey data to monitor and evaluate the effectiveness of public health and health-care management interventions. STEPS survey implementation allows further development of national capacities for NCD monitoring and surveillance, thus meeting several of the United Nations time-bound targets for improving capacities and response to these diseases.

WHO has provided technical, financial and material resources to support the implementation of 10 STEPS surveys in eastern European and central Asian countries. Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Kyrgyzstan, the Republic of Moldova, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan have conducted nationally representative STEPS surveys in 2011–2017, whereas Kazakhstan implemented the survey in 2 regions of the country. In addition, Turkey and Ukraine are planning to undertake the STEPS survey for the first time in 2017, while Azerbaijan, Kyrgyzstan, the Republic of Moldova, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan will conduct a second round of the survey in 2017–2018.

Overall, by the end of 2018, these surveys will have included more than 40 000 people aged 18–69 years in the WHO European Region. This will increase the NCD surveillance coverage to nearly 200 million people or around 25% of the population of the Region.