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80% of deaths due to NCDs

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Non-communicable diseases (NCDs) cause 80 per cent of deaths in the Sultanate of Oman. It is a major public health issue that causes 185.75 deaths per 100,000 population in the country, according to a recent systematic review on NCDs and health equity in the EMR by the Ministry of Health (MoH).

Adult-onset NCDs are increasingly being viewed as a consequence of poor nutrition in infancy and early childhood, and an outcome of the ongoing nutrition transition with its characteristic shifts in diet, lifestyle and body composition, according to the MoH.

A sedentary lifestyle, consumption of junk and oily food, and other factors are contributing to NCDs. Heart disease, cancer, chronic respiratory disease, and diabetes are the leading cause of death in the country, just as is the case worldwide.

"The major reasons behind NCDs, according to available data, are the faulty dietary practices, characterised by high intakes of salt, fat and sugar amongst both the adult and adolescent population in Oman," said Dr Salima al Mammary, MD, MRCGPint, Consultant Family Physician at the Ministry of Health (MoH).

She further said that there is a need for the development of culture-specific interventions aimed at improving early child feeding practices, decreasing the intake of atherogenic nutrients and favouring the consumption of cardio-protective food in Oman.

"In the planning for any intervention to alter the population's food consumption patterns, the first step should be an assessment of the consumer's knowledge and attitudes, as potential determinants of dietary practices", Dr Salima who is also the Director of the Nutrition Department added.

She further said that a survey is currently under way to enumerate, analyse and assess the eating habits of people between the age brackets of 14 and 60 to get nutrition-related knowledge, attitudes and practices among the people.

The Ministry of Health (MoH), Nutrition department has collaborated with Al Jisr Foundation and WHO project to assess knowledge, attitude and practices of Omani adults and adolescents pertaining to the consumption of salt, sugar and fat and general dietary habits.

"The main objectives of this project are therefore to establish baseline quantitative data on knowledge, attitude and practice (KAP) related to dietary salt, sugar and fat in Oman and to investigate the association of socio-demographic factors, knowledge and attitudes."

For this project, four multicomponent questionnaires were developed to assess the population's KAP related to General healthy eating (questionnaire 1); dietary salt (questionnaire 2); dietary sugar (questionnaire 3) and dietary fat (Questionnaire 4).

The development of the questionnaires was based on a thorough review of pertinent literature as well as expert input from the Nutrition department (MoH). For the KAP survey focusing on "dietary salt, Sugar and fat" and general healthy eating, a population-based survey will be conducted on 14-60-year-old subjects. Primary Health Care facilities with OPD are considered clusters for sampling (Primary Sampling Units - PSU). Sample size calculations were performed, and accordingly, a minimum sample of 5,623 subjects aged 14-60 years will be invited to participate in one of these four forms.

"We are also aiming at identifying the gaps in the population's knowledge, attitudes and dietary practices related to general healthy eating, salt, sugar and fat and to investigate the socio-demographic correlates of low knowledge and unfavourable attitudes related to general healthy eating, and dietary salt, sugar and fat," adds Dr Al Mammary.

Recently, an intensive workshop was held for fieldwork teams from all governorates to train on data collection. The workshop was conducted by the expert from WHO Dr Lara Nasreddine, along with the Nutrition Department team and the support of the Al Jisr foundation. The training included the theoretical and practical aspects from January 15 to 19 so that the trainees could collect data accurately and proficiently.


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