Chronic diseases slide 10 yrs after prevention programme


Chronic diseases slide 10 yrs after prevention programme

Abu Dhabi - The Weqaya programme focuses on aspects like screening, tobacco control, disease management, diet and nutrition.


Ashwani Kumar

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Published: Sat 8 Jun 2019, 10:40 PM

Last updated: Sun 9 Jun 2019, 12:45 AM

Sustained measures taken by the Department of Health - Abu Dhabi to counter the growing cases of chronic diseases have shown positive results, a top official said.
It was in 2008 that the Department of Health launched the Weqaya (Arabic word for 'prevention') programme, which focused on aspects like screening, tobacco control, disease management, diet and nutrition.
Over the past 10 years, the implementation of such programmes has led to a dip in cases of and deaths due to cancer, diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, hypertension and obesity, said Dr Omniyat Al Hajri, director of public health at the Department of Health.
"We started with basic screening tests for people at public and private healthcare facilities to identify early risk factors; help them make lifestyle changes; and recommend the right treatment, if needed. We soon realised that it wasn't enough. So, we added components like the Weqaya Healthy Nutrition programme to raise awareness through activities and events about wellness and prevention of disease," Dr Al Hajri said.
Cafeterias and vending machines of healthcare providers in Abu Dhabi were asked to conform with the Weqaya nutritional guidelines. These include serving food products with the Weqaya logo, which proves that an item is rich in minerals, vitamins and fibre; low in fat and salt; and contains less than 750 calories.
Food outlets were also encouraged to have the heart-shaped Weqaya logo on their menu.
"The Weqaya label shows the 'better' meal on your menu. We took another step and collaborated with Etihad Aviation Group to have our Weqaya logo on their menus. From the Weqaya specification for meals that are cooked, we also focused on pre-packed food," Dr Al Hajri said.
'Weqaya tag is healthy option'
Recently, the Department of Health reached an agreement with the LuLu Hypermarket chain to introduce Weqaya-certified food products.
"We hope to see other hypermarkets in Abu Dhabi follow this," she said, noting that the Department of Health is focusing on implementing the Weqaya specification for kids' pre-packed food.
The Department of Health also verifies imported food products.
"We go through food labels one by one. Our expert team of dietitians validate whether it meets specifications or not. We check if there's any added sugar or salt. Everyone assumes nuts are okay but some people add sugar to give it a glistening coat. We check meat and chicken for added sugar and salt, too. When we give you the Weqaya tag, it is a healthy option. We have done our homework for the consumer and will appreciate if they are making the right choices."
Dr Al Hajri said people should be empowered to choose healthy options.
"We aren't taking away their right to choose, but we're giving them healthier options. We do a lot of work, but we can't control people's choices. We are giving them good options. They can pick healthier food over unhealthy ones. With all these initiatives, we have seen a drop in mortality cases but we need to do more."

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