Oman’s fight against cancer, lifestyle diseases begins
February 11, 2018 | 10:16 PM
by Ismael David Mujahid / [email protected]

Muscat: Oman’s Ministry of Health (MoH) plans to bring down the number of deaths from Non-Communicable Diseases (NCDs) by 25 per cent over the next few years. Under the patronage of His Highness Sayyid Shihab bin Tariq Al Said, Advisor to His Majesty Sultan Qaboos Al Said, the ministry, in partnership with the World Health Organisation (WHO), has launched Oman’s National Multi-sectoral Plan for Prevention and Control of Non-Communicable Diseases by 2025.

The plan was outlined by Dr. Ahmed bin Mohammed bin Obaid Al Sa’eedi, Minister of Health, in the presence of members of the State Council and WHO.

“This event marks two years of collective action by representatives of all health-related sectors, as well as a number of our national and international partners. The result is a clear national policy, that has subsequently been translated into a national plan to address the issue of NCDs,” the minister of health said.

He added, “The risk of these diseases is growing by the day due to demographic and epidemiological changes in society. There has been a noticeable shift in the lifestyles of our citizens, as well as in the spread of negative habits such as smoking, eating fast food, and inactivity.”

Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director General of WHO, who was also present at the event, said, “Taking action against NCDs, including mental ailments and substance abuse, is one of five strategic areas of cooperation between WHO and the Sultanate. Like many countries, Oman has witnessed a dramatic transition in the burden of diseases. NCDs are now the leading cause of premature mortality in this country.”

“You’re aware of the challenges you face. More than half of all Omanis are now overweight or obese. One in four Omani adults have high blood pressure. The prevalence of diabetes has increased by some 50 per cent since 1991. This is not only devastating from a human point of view, but it also has a devastating economic impact, both in terms of costs of treating people with long-term illnesses and loss of productivity. Of course, you are not alone, it is a global crisis. NCDs account for seven of the top 10 causes of death globally and are responsible for 70 per cent of all diseases worldwide,” he added.

Speaking about the causes of NCDs, Ghebreyesus said: “We know what the answers are. Stop tobacco use, reduce salt intake, consume less sugar, eliminate industrial trans-fats, and treat more people for high blood pressure. It’s easy to say but harder to do. It takes a clear vision, a bold plan, and strong determination. That’s exactly what this action plan seeks to do.

“It maps a clear path for decreasing the use of harmful products, increasing physical activity, and improving the diet. It emphasises that beating NCDs is not a job for the health sector alone. It will require the coordinated effort of all sectors of the government, as well as the private sector and civil society.”

The plan will focus on targeting four specific NCDs, namely cardiovascular diseases, hypertension, cancer, and diabetes. Currently, these four illnesses account for 72.9 per cent of all deaths in the Sultanate, according to statistics released in 2016. Authorities from the MoH have identified five primary risk factors that will be tackled in the campaign, including lack of physical activity, smoking, and unhealthy dietary habits, among others.

Oman’s NCD prevention and control road map was outlined by members of the National Committee for Non-Communicable Diseases, in accordance with the recommendations of the Council of Ministers. The all-encompassing strategy will include a collaboration across every level of the Sultanate’s society, including NGOs, civil associations, as well as businesses.

Organisations participating in the fight against NCDs in Oman include the Ministry of Commerce and Industry, Ministry of Sports Affairs, Ministry of Regional Municipalities and Water Resources, Ministry of Environment and Climate Affairs, Ministry of Information, Ministry of Education and the Supreme Council of Planning, as well as Oman Cancer Association, Oman Medical Association, Oman Tobacco Control Association, WHO, and UNICEF.

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