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Amongst the preventable diseases diphtheria, tetanus and pertussis are most likely to affect children. Ministry of Public Health (MoPH) has organised a vaccination campaign to begin from 18th February and extend till 15th March to prevent them.

The campaign is aimed at providing booster vaccine against diphtheria, tetanus and pertussis for the children in grade 10 at government and private schools.

In a recent workshop conducted for Tdap vaccination MoPH Director of Public Health Sheikh Dr Mohammed al Thani said, “There are no outbreaks of diphtheria, tetanus and pertussis in Qatar because people were vaccinated during their young age. The few cases we registered were from outside the country.”

It was explained that Tdap vaccination is effective for 10 years and is highly important for students in 10th standard as they are about to enter a very crucial period. The vaccination will protect the tenth graders healthy between high school, university and the time they are starting to work.

Booster vaccine against diphtheria, tetanus and acellular pertussis is a combination-immunising agent given by injection to prevent against those infectious diseases for a long duration.

Sheikh Dr Mohammed further explained that MoPH will be introducing wide spectrum of vaccines to cover more than 14 diseases and the Expanded Programme on Immunization (EPI). They will be unique, updated and advanced immunisation programmes in the region. He explained that supplementary immunisation activities that target high risk groups from time to time such as the Tdap campaign.

Though there are no local cases registered diphtheria, tetanus or pertussis in the last 10 years but there has been four cases were imported and it was identified that patients had not been vaccinated against the diseases.

MoPH has urged parents to permit for the vaccination and will be coordinating with school nurses on the same.

The focus is on increasing the immunity level of the population so that it prevents any outbreak even if there is any case coming from outside to Qatar. The dose that the 10th graders will receive will be the sixth which is a booster dose aimed at increasing immunity of children for the same, to avoid any outbreak given the crucial time of FIFA 2022 increasing the inflow of tourists.

 

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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.

Collaborative approach

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.”

Health crisis

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.

Cancer care

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.

Insurance system

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.

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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.

Thoughts?

Chantelle D'mello / Doha News

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Qatar will not be instituting any bans on certain produce from Arab countries, as the UAE has recently announced plans to do.

But some consignments of produce will meet increased scrutiny when it comes into the country, local officials have said.

In a circular sent to ports across Qatar, the Ministry of Public Health (MOPH) ordered that shipments of fruits and vegetables from Lebanon, Oman, Egypt and Jordan only be released after undergoing a pesticide analysis, the Peninsula reports.

The move comes after the UAE announced this week that it would soon be banning produce from those four countries, as well as Yemen.

What’s banned

Effective May 15, the UAE has blacklisted these products for having unacceptably high levels of pesticide:

  • All varieties of peppers from Egypt;
  • Peppers, cabbage, cauliflower, lettuce, squash, beans and aubergine from Jordan;
  • Apples from Lebanon;
  • Melons, carrots and watercress from Oman; and
  • All types of fruit from Yemen.

Any other produce from these countries will be accepted if they are certified to have met certain standards, UAE officials said.

The announcement has raised concerns about increased prices for produce in the Emirates, but also drew praise for protecting residents.

Chantelle D'mello / Doha News

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For its part, Qatar’s MOPH has demurred on instituting any blanket bans.

In a statement this week, it instead emphasized the strong measures it has in place to ensure the safety of food imports.

The ministry added that 510 samples of produce were tested for insecticides during the first quarter of this year.

Only some 67 of them were rejected due to high levels of the chemicals.

Ray Toh

A farm in Qatar.

As a desert nation, Qatar imports the vast majority of its food. However, it has been decreasing its reliance in recent years.

For example, a 2015 government report stated that the country grew nearly 24 percent of the fruits and vegetables consumed in Qatar in 2013. That’s up from 15 percent in 2009.

Thoughts?