Ramp up primary healthcare to curb non-communicable diseases: WHO
The World Health Organisation (WHO) highlights the need to improve access to primary healthcare worldwide and to increase uptake.
Good health is a key factor in leading a meaningful life. Today on World Health Day, experts say that non-communicable diseases (NCDs), such as obesity, are still the leading cause of ill health.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) - in its World Health Statistics 2019 report - highlights the need to improve access to primary healthcare worldwide and to increase uptake.
"One of the WHO's triple billion goals is for one billion more people to have universal health coverage by 2023," said Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, director-general of the WHO.
"This means improving access to services, especially at the community level, and making sure those services are accessible, affordable, and effective for everyone - regardless of their gender," he said.
The latest figures, according to another WHO official, underline that a strong primary healthcare drive is urgently needed globally to effectively curb NCD risk factors. "For example, something as simple as controlling blood pressure is just not happening on the scale needed and tobacco use remains a leading cause of premature death," said Dr Samira Asma, WHO assistant director-general for data, analytics and delivery.
Dr Khadija Ismail Abdelkarim Al Zarouni, family medicine specialist and designated aviation medicine examiner at the University Hospital Sharjah, said that in the UAE, obesity and Vitamin D deficiency are among the top factors that are triggering major health problems for both men and women.
"It is interesting to know that despite the sunny weather, lack of Vitamin D is found in several cases. While obesity is caused by sedentary and unhealthy lifestyle choices, Vitamin D is a problem caused by limited exposure to sunlight," she said.
Obesity also triggers high blood pressure, hypertension, diabetes and cancer. And Type 2 diabetes is one of the most common health problems that has brought about adverse effects on people's lives, she said.
In terms of fatal diseases, Dr Khadija said breast, cervical, lung and rectal cancer are the most common in the country.
"Apart from these, mental health remains a social stigma in our society. Symptoms of depression - and overall mental health - are completely ignored. Respiratory infections, bone and joint pain, stomach and bowel disorder are also common problems in the UAE," she added.
Lifestyle, genetic constitution, immunity and environment, among others, are found to be the top factors that affect health. And positive changes can be expected if only "citizens can consume more healthy meals and avoid junk food", Dr Khadija said.
Georges Chidiac, senior vice-president and general manager, Saicohealth, said that NCDs are also known as the silent killer and have been on the rise in recent years.
"NCDs contribute to 70 per cent of all deaths globally and some of the most prevailing forms of NCDs are cancers, cardiovascular diseases and diabetes," he said. "The problem is that most people have an unhealthy sedentary lifestyle - combined with rapid urbanisation and an ageing population. But these can be countered with a proper NCD management plan that includes detecting, screening and treating these diseases."
World Health Day serves as an opportunity for doctors and experts to engage people in essential discussions that can help them live a healthier life.
"In general, it's a good idea to have regular check-ups as a preventative measure. People should consult a doctor if they notice persistent or recurring symptoms, including a high fever or cough," said Dr Khaled Mahmoud Aboeldahab, medical director at NMC ProVita International Medical Centre.
"It's also important to see a doctor if you experience difficulty breathing or swallowing, changes in bowel movements or urination, severe pain, unexplained and significant changes in your weight, confusion or mood changes, or any unusual symptoms after a medical procedure or new medication."
While eating healthy, exercising regularly and going for regular check-ups remain as the golden rules, Dr Khaled said people should also maintain a healthy work-life balance, foster a sense of community, and engage in activities that are meaningful to them.
UAE ranks first in healthcare satisfaction: Minister
Out of 160 countries across the world, the UAE ranks first in global survey indicators in terms of satisfaction with healthcare services, the Ministry of Health and Prevention (Mohap) has said. And the country's leadership is determined to do more to keep its people healthy.
As the UAE joins the world in celebrating World Health Day, Mohap underlines its commitment to launching initiatives and projects that fortify the country's health system.
Abdulrahman bin Mohammed Al Owais, Minister of Health and Prevention, said: "We, at the Ministry of Health, spare no effort to explore the future and to achieve the health services' sustainability...in pursuance of the pillars of the National Agenda for UAE Vision 2021."
In the country, launching innovative initiatives and projects is key in fighting chronic diseases, he said.
"To that end, we rely on integrating artificial intelligence, the fourth industrial revolution and smart applications in health services.
"In addition to that, we provide remote healthcare services and use the virtual reality technology in accordance with the best international practices and in line with UAE Centennial 2071," the minister said.
What is World Health Day?
Each year on April 7, the World Health Organisation celebrates World Health Day. It is a chance to celebrate health and remind world leaders that everyone should be able to access the healthcare they need, when and where they need it. The WHO's campaign for 2019 is focusing on 'universal health coverage' and ensuring that individuals across the world have access to essential healthcare.