Lifestyle changes are bound to take a toll on any nation’s overall health index. This is often cited as one of the major drawbacks of indiscriminate adoption of technology. Technologies do make people’s life easier and improve their quality of life giving them more time to spend on pursuits they like most. But lives are becoming more and more sedentary giving rise to new health problems. What is even more troubling for the public health administrator is that the most susceptible demographic band to such problems is the young. Children as well as the youth no longer have to undertake much physical exertion because most activities have moved online. Many children have come to prefer online games to outdoor activity with direct implications for the physical wellbeing. Eating habits also have undergone serious changes with children preferring fast food to more nutritious conventional food. Processed food generally has lower nutrition index, which is worsened by the excess amounts of salt, sugar and harmful fats it contains. No wonder that the Ministry of Health says that non-communicable diseases, mostly related to unhealthy lifestyles, are the worst killers in the Sultanate. Among the top non-communicable diseases is cardiac and circulatory conditions that cause a deterioration of the quality of life of not only those afflicted, but the community in which they live. Of the 3,909 deaths in government hospitals, 981 were the result of heart and circulatory system related conditions. Non-communicable diseases caused about 44 per cent of outpatient visits in hospitals last year, compared to 42.5 per cent in 1996. In the case of communicable diseases, there was a fall to 31.8 per cent from 43.2 per cent.
The healthcare administrators believe the nation is witnessing a major epidemiological transition from communicable to non-communicable diseases as the major morbidity cause. This could be explained in terms of better hygiene and preventive care by the nation’s healthcare system. The fact that the government is already taking major steps to make changes to its public healthcare system to reflect the overall situation is indeed welcome. The Health Ministry is already in the process of making the adjustments that would necessary when the population doubles in the next 30 years as projected by experts. This definitely is a challenge as well as an opportunity for the nation. With almost 2.7 per cent of the nation’s gross domestic product being spent on healthcare, the Sultanate is eminently equipped to take on any challenges. Government healthcare institutions offer about 92.5 per cent of hospital beds in the nation and its comprehensive healthcare programme meets about 81.1 per cent of the national population’s medical expenditure. The Eighth Five-Year Plan (2010-15) saw the opening of five more hospitals, four specialty facilities and 29 health centres, strengthening the nation’s fabled three-tier system. While the Sultanate is primed to meet any healthcare challenge, the government is also extremely keen on preventive care. Increasing people’s awareness is the most important aspect of this. The government is targeting educational institutions in order to spread awareness about healthy lifestyles. The role of outdoor sports like football is singularly important in keeping the youth healthy. The government’s stress on providing better public play areas must, therefore, be appreciated.