A recent meeting of the State Council has rightly expressed concern about the high prevalence of lifestyle diseases in the Sultanate. State Council Chairman HE Yahya Bin Mahfoudh Al Mantheri said the present trend reflected poorly on the economy because of the depletion of human resources. Perhaps it will not be wrong to surmise at this juncture that the number of persons suffering from lifestyle diseases will go up as obesity is becoming a major menace and more and more residents suffer from ailments such as diabetes, hypertension, heart disease and cancer. This is a result of sedentary lifestyle and a shift from traditional, nutritious diets to fast foods. According to Health Ministry reports, the Sultanate’s per capita health spending is less than $800 compared with $4,000 in Europe and $9,000 in the United States. But this is expected to go up in the coming years.
The Sultanate is focused on upgrading its healthcare facilities and diagnostic capabilities as part of its efforts to standardise norms and establish interconnectivity among hospitals and regional clinics. The ministry is also keen on adopting US healthcare information management technologies. Side by side, it has taken concerted steps to reduce the prices of the most commonly used medicines in Oman in phases over the past years. In June 2015, the ministry revised the prices of 1,180 drugs. They include key medicines for respiratory disorders and psychiatric ailments. A World Health Organisation report says that 68 per cent of all disease-related deaths in the Sultanate stem from lifestyle-based ailments, which include cardiovascular problems and diabetes. Across the GCC, only the UAE is ranked lower than Oman. Cardiovascular diseases, such as bronchitis and emphysema, accounted for 33 per cent of all lifestyle diseases, while diabetes and cancer contributed 10 per cent each. An Oman Dental College report says junk food and smoking are two very common ways in which people deal with stress and this can have a very adverse effect in the long run. There is also a direct link between smoking and mouth cancer. There are nearly 100 chemicals in cigarettes which cause cancer in the mouth in the long-run. Diet also obviously plays a very important role because most people are exposed to processed foods and sugary and fizzy drinks these days. Eating processed foods which contain so many additives, preservatives and chemicals, will have an adverse effect on your health. In the GCC region, Saudi Arabia and Bahrain top the list in terms of lifestyle-based deaths with 78 per cent. Kuwait follows with 73 per cent and Qatar comes next with 69 per cent. Although Oman’s rating may be a cause for concern, it is still quite low internationally. In comparison, the United States (88 per cent) and the United Kingdom (89 per cent) are both way ahead of the Sultanate. Other developed nations such as France (87 per cent), New Zealand (89 per cent), Japan (79 per cent) and Australia (91 per cent) are also placed more precariously than us. However, the Sultanate’s public healthcare system needs to be upgraded in order to make it more efficient. The network of primary health centres in the rural areas also must be increased. Allowing a regulated private healthcare sector to function alongside the public sector can significantly contribute to addressing the healthcare needs of the population.