Constructing public health policies in post crisis countries: lessons to learn from the associations between free-sugars consumption and diabetes, obesity and dental caries before, during and after sanctions in Iraq
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Background This article aims to provide evidence for an informed public health policy on free-sugar consumption in post-crisis countries. Methods Iraq was selected as a case study. A systematic search for published data on the prevalence/incidence of type-2 diabetes, overweight/obesity, dental caries and free-sugar consumption levels in Iraq was conducted using MEDLINE, the Iraqi Academic Scientific journals and relevant international organisations’ websites. Comparable data before (1980–1990), during (1991–2002) and after (2003–2015) the United Nations sanctions (UNS) were included. Results Ten studies were included. Quality scores ranged between 3 and 7/8. Free-sugar consumption decreased dramatically during the UNS (from 50 to 16.3 kg/person/year) and started increasing afterwards (24.1 kg/person/year). Changes in type-2 diabetes, overweight/obesity and caries levels mirrored those of free-sugar consumption. Caries declined markedly during UNS and started increasing afterwards. Comparable data on diabetes and overweight/obesity were only available for the periods during and after the UNS. Both of these conditions started increasing with increased free-sugar consumption after lifting the UNS. Conclusions There is a need to develop a public health policy in post-crisis countries to maintain the reduction in free-sugar consumption, and hence promote both general and dental health, by integrating the common risk factor approach into the social determinant framework.