Minister highlights Oman’s effective Covid-19 control measures
The Sultanate, represented by the Ministry of Health, took part in the World Health Organization (WHO) virtual launching of the WHO Unhealthy Lifestyle Diseases Report.
Dr Ahmed bin Mohammed al Saeedi, Minister of Health, First Deputy of WHO-Executive Board, gave a keynote address where he affirmed that non-communicable diseases (NCDs) remain a common burden to the international community, and one that will require organised efforts beyond the health sector.
Dr Al Saeedi stated that hosting the global meeting to accelerate progress on SDG target 3.4 on non-communicable diseases and mental health in Oman in December 2019 has placed NCDs and mental health on the spotlight, which helped build a better understanding of the important role of non-health sectors in controlling the threat they represent. He added that the meeting offered a capacity-building opportunity for our NCD and mental health professionals.
He pointed out that since the meeting in December 2019, Oman has taken several actions to mitigate such diseases by introducing taxation on sugar-sweetened beverages, the Omani standard for bread (stating the upper limit of salt in bread), and enhanced the integration of managing the most common mental illnesses in primary healthcare.
Dr Al Saeedi said Covid-19 pandemic brought with it numerous challenges, especially concerning the vulnerability of persons living with NCDs as many health systems recognised this quickly at the onset of the pandemic and ensured prioritisation of NCDs and mental health in their Covid-19 response.
In Oman, as in many countries, the situation imposed by the pandemic led to innovation. Measures were introduced at all levels of care based on the use of technology in raising awareness and providing services. He elaborated that examples and evidence-based best practices are many, ranging from counselling through hotline services and telemedicine clinics; and to the use of technology in scheduling appointments to collect medications and share vital measurements.
In his address, the Health Minister emphasised the country’s commitment to addressing the burden of NCDs in the face of all and any challenges, affirming their continuous strive to strengthen NCD data and monitoring processes which would pave the way for successful implementation towards the SDG targets that have been set.
The event marked the formal launching of the Lifestyle Diseases Report. Notably, the Global Report is one of the major outputs of the global meeting, highlighting the key messages and recommendations and providing the reference to the WHO resources on how to advance the NCD agenda at global, regional and national levels.
The event aimed at taking stock of the progress towards achieving SDG target 3.4 since the global meeting in Oman, as well as providing a platform for major announcements of projects, initiatives, technical packages and tools, which WHO and partners can offer to help countries implement the whole spectrum of NCD and mental health interventions from promotion and prevention, to treatment, rehabilitation and palliation.
Moreover, it provided a platform for updates and information exchange on WHO’s work in the areas covered in the report, taking into account the major developments in the NCD field related to the ongoing pandemic. It further aimed at disseminating the report and other WHO resources to a wide range of stakeholders, including high-level policymakers, NCD managers, United Nations Organizations and non-State actors.
The meeting highlighted the follow-up activities, collaborations, partnerships and accelerated action in countries as a result of the Global Meeting as well as outlined the way forward.
The Sultanate is one of the pioneering countries in adopting the initiative to integrate chronic disease services within the primary healthcare system and has also worked in cooperation with World Health Organization to reduce the spread of these diseases in society, by reducing risk factors such as smoking, unhealthy nutrition, as well as physical inactivity.