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Road safety, air quality, cancer and mental illness are among the top health issues Qatar hopes to tackle in the next five years.
But as they finalize their five-year plan, authorities are also asking for residents’ views on how to improve the nation’s health and well-being.
This week, Qatar’s Ministry of Public Health launched a new online survey inviting public consultation.
It will be up for the next 16 weeks, and responses will feed into MOPH’s new Public Health Strategy 2017-2022, which is expected to be released later this year.
This plan builds on the previous National Health Strategy (NHS) 2011- 2016. It will focus on 16 priority areas identified for improvement, along with 63 objectives.
The new strategy was scheduled to launch last year, but has been delayed.
So far, the action plan entails improving road safety, tackling communicable diseases, boosting environmental health – particularly air quality – and combating cancer and diabetes, according to MOPH.
Other significant public health issues in Qatar including obesity, cardiovascular disease, workers’ safety and smoking will also be targeted for improvement.
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The online poll can be answered anonymously and takes about 10 minutes to complete.
It asks 16 questions to gauge residents’ views on their own health and fitness, and what they think are the main health issues in the country.
It was launched this week by Dr. Hanan Al Kuwari, Minister of Public Health, who said in a statement:
“By inviting feedback through the public health survey, we will be able to ensure the strategy aligns with the wishes of the very people it aims to help.”
Sheikh Dr. Mohammed H. Al Thani, MOPH’s Director of Public Health, added that the new plan aims to better educate the public about adopting healthier lifestyles.
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Plans are also afoot for more public screening programs to identify and treat diseases such as cancer early on.
In a statement, Al Thani said:
“To achieve the strategy’s vision for a healthy population we need individuals, families, employers, schools and government to all play their part and take responsibility for developing a healthier society.”
Despite being one of the richest countries in the world – or perhaps because of it – Qatar’s population is contending with significant health problems.
More than 70 percent of the population is overweight or obese and 83 percent get little or no physical exercise.
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And nearly half of all residents eat fast food more than three times a week, while one in six have been diagnosed with diabetes, according to a report presented this year.
Likewise, Qatar’s roads continue to be among the most dangerous in the world. Traffic accidents serve as the primary cause of premature death in the country.
On a bright note, the number of reported road deaths, accidents and traffic offenses did decrease last year.
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But young men remain disproportionately at risk of dying on Qatar’s roads.
According to the MOI, some 95 percent of the people killed in road accidents last year were male, while only 5 percent were female.
The new health strategy has three objectives to improve road safety in the country.
These include stricter enforcement of existing laws, such as buckling up, and more road safety education and awareness campaigns, particularly aimed at young people and pedestrians.
The new strategy will also focus on cancer by working to reduce the nation’s likelihood of developing cancers. Officials also hope to improve diagnosis and early treatment of the illness.
According to Al Kuwari, earlier diagnosis will lead to less invasive and potentially more successful treatment.
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A new five-year plan, the National Cancer Framework 2017-2022, was launched on Monday to support this, QNA reported.
Some of its goals include:
- Developing programs to encourage healthier lifestyles;
- Reducing tobacco consumption; and
- Supporting the improved education and understanding of cancer.
Last year, Qatar’s health authorities ran public awareness and screening programs for breast cancer and bowel cancer.
The new cancer strategy had been due to launch last October, Lord Darzi of Denham, chairman of the National Cancer Committee, said last year.
Improving patient experience and providing better value-for-money for patients would be among its aims, he added at the time.
The new public strategy does not mention how healthcare in Qatar will be funded.
The country was on track to roll out health insurance for all of its residents. But in late 2015, the National Health Insurance Co. (Seha) was scrapped amid criticisms that a lot of money was being wasted.
Photo for illustrative purposes only. Alex Proimos/Flickr
MOPH previously said that it would introduce the first phase of a new scheme that involves private healthcare providers this year.
But details of the proposed new initiative have yet to be publicly revealed.