Turkey monitors noncommunicable disease risk factors among its population

In 2017, WHO and Turkey’s Ministry of Health conducted a nationwide, large-scale household survey to study the prevalence of risk factors for noncommunicable diseases (NCDs) in the country.

The survey followed the WHO STEPwise approach to surveillance (STEPS) in order to collect and analyse data on a broad range of NCD risk factors, such as alcohol consumption; tobacco use; physical inactivity; high daily salt intake with low consumption of fruits and vegetables; and overweight or obesity.

The results are now presented in “National Household Health Survey – Prevalence of Noncommunicable Disease Risk Factors in Turkey 2017”.

“This survey is important because it provides an opportunity for international comparisons and highlights the needs in the country,” explains Dr Ahmet Demircan, Minister of Health of Turkey.

“The Government of Turkey recognized the impact of NCDs and reaffirmed its commitment to tackling them and their risk factors,” notes Dr Pavel Ursu, WHO Representative to Turkey. “The survey data will serve as baseline information for new NCD policies and a starting point for monitoring the prevalence of risk factors.”

Results of the survey

The study focused on the adult population of Turkey (those 15 years or age or older) across 5 age groups and both sexes. The results of the survey indicate that half of the respondents (51.2%) had 3 or more risk factors for NCDs. Only 1.3% of the population studied had none of the 5 risk factors.

In particular, key findings reveal that among the population studied:

  • 31.5% were current tobacco smokers, with prevalence significantly higher among men (43.4%) than women (19.7%);
  • 8% were current alcohol users;
  • 87.8% ate fewer than 5 servings of fruit and/or vegetables per day, with a slight difference between men and women;
  • 4 in 10 did not engage in sufficient physical activity (defined as at least 150 minutes of moderate activity per week);
  • 64.4% were overweight;
  • 27.7% had raised blood pressure, with a significant difference between men (26.1%) and women (29.3%); and
  • 1 in 10 had raised blood glucose.

NCD prevalence in Turkey

NCDs are the leading cause of death at the global, regional and national levels. They kill 40 million people each year – equivalent to 70% of all deaths globally. The growing number of people living with 1 or more NCDs, as well as the increasing number of premature deaths resulting from them, places a heavy strain on health systems and negatively impacts both economic development and well-being.

In Turkey, NCDs are responsible for 87.5% of all deaths in the country; this rate is similar to those of countries in the rest of the WHO European Region. The probability of premature death from 1 of the 4 major NCDs for a person living in Turkey was around 1 in 6 (16.8%) in 2015.

To respond to the growing burden of NCDs, heads of state and government endorsed the United Nations “Political Declaration of the High-level Meeting of the General Assembly on the Prevention and Control of Non-communicable Diseases” in May 2011. The World Health Assembly also endorsed the WHO global action plan for the prevention and control of noncommunicable diseases 2013–2020.

The Government of Turkey recognized the impact of NCDs and reaffirmed its commitment to tackling them and their risk factors through a multisectoral NCD action plan for 2017–2025. In addition, Turkey developed an investment case for NCD prevention and control, with contributions from WHO, to provide evidence that NCDs reduce economic output and to discuss potential options for response.