Ensuring healthy lifestyle tops MoH agenda: WHO

By Kaushalendra Singh — SALALAH: Jan 10: The Sultanate’s Ministry of Health is committed to ensure a healthy lifestyle, as issues related to it have already been identified and the ministry is aware of the burden of the lifestyle diseases. With focus on a national diet scheme, equal stress is given on physical activity and a health strategy to ensure healthy lifestyles to the people. A document titled ‘Country Cooperation Strategy for WHO and Oman 2010-2015’ has elaborated details on health issues of the country. The report has praised the efforts of the Ministry of Health in identifying the issues and progresses made in addressing those issues.
Due to a lifestyle which resulted in less physical activity and more relaxation “Oman is experiencing nutrition transition, with a double burden of under-nutrition and specific micronutrient deficiencies as well as overweight and obesity. Low intake of iron, zinc, vitamin A and dietary fibre along with high intakes of saturated fat, sodium chloride and possibly transfat pose significant concerns to the health of the population,” said the report.
Praising the national food-based dietary guidelines, the report said it will serve as “a basis for addressing the dietary habits in the country.
“The remarkable improvement in health status in Oman over the past years can be attributed as much to improvement of non-health conditions as to those related to the health system, for example the level of income, education, transport, women’s empowerment and access to information.”
According to the report, “physical inactivity is also a growing concern since a large number of people are living sedentary lifestyles.
Less than a quarter of students aged 13–15 years meet the WHO physical activity guidelines for adolescents; this is markedly less in girls (13.4 per cent) compared to boys (32.5 per cent).
894417A local survey of adults shows a similar trend, with women less active than men, 34.6 per cent and 50.6 per cent respectively.
The Global Youth Tobacco Survey (2007) showed an alarming level of tobacco use among adolescents in Oman; 17.8 per cent of boys and 11.3 per cent of girls use various types of tobacco products (such as cigarettes, shisha and chewing tobacco).
Use of shisha in Oman, virtually unheard of ten years ago, is increasingly popular, promoted by the misconception that it is safer than smoking cigarettes. The same survey indicated that 14 per cent of adolescents had at least one parent who smoked; and about a quarter (27.5 per cent) were exposed to smoke in public places.”
Passive smoking has also been noticed as a major cause for concern. “In a survey of 10,000 children under-15 years of age, nearly one-third were exposed to passive smoking at home. It is noteworthy to mention here that a number of scientific communications from Oman indicate high morbidity among children related to respiratory symptoms, mainly asthma; the connection to passive smoking is yet to be established.”
“A national tobacco control committee exists with an active team and Oman has ratified the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC). Steps have been taken to pass a tobacco control law which incorporates all the articles cited in the FCTC. An intersectoral working team to address tobacco control activities was formed in 2007 and numerous promotional materials for tobacco control have been developed.
A workplace ban on smoking in the private sector as well as establishing cessation programmes in the workplace was incorporated in the recent occupational health and safety regulations issued by the Ministry of Manpower.
Considering the emerging health issues related to lifestyle, the Ministry of Health is active in promoting health in schools, previously through teaching the “facts for life” booklet and more recently the WHO-supported comprehensive multi-sectoral approach under the health-promoting schools initiative,” the report said.
The WHO document termed the Ministry of Health efforts as an investment in “consistently in equitable primary health care and decentralisation” which resulted in “a dense network of local, district and regional health facilities.
Furthermore, the wilayat health level, matching with the administrative level of the local government, has a pivotal role in addressing determinants of health. It provides the ideal platform for inter-sectoral collaboration on a broader health agenda where the determinants of health need to be addressed by a multiplicity of agencies and the wider community.”