WHO says Oman lead­ing charge against NCDs

Muscat Daily - - FRONT PAGE - M Na­j­muz Za­far Mus­cat

From smoke-free souqs to lowsalt bread, busi­nesses and com­mu­ni­ties in Oman are lead­ing the charge against non-com­mu­ni­ca­ble dis­eases (NCDs), like heart and lung dis­eases, can­cer, and di­a­betes, the World Health Or­ga­ni­za­tion (WHO) has said.

Guided by the Nizwa Healthy Lifestyle Project, Oman’s old­est com­mu­nity-based project founded in 1999, many lay­ers of so­ci­ety - from the na­tional con­sumer pro­tec­tion au­thor­ity and mu­nic­i­pal au­thor­i­ties to busi­nesses - have joined forces to re­duce risks that cause NCDs.

“Ev­ery­thing is go­ing well. We will set a goal to dis­sem­i­nate these ini­tia­tives and put in place more ex­am­ples all over Oman,” says Dr Zahir al An­qoudi, head of the NCDs sec­tion at Oman’s Min­istry of Health and a mem­ber of the Oman Anti-To­bacco So­ci­ety.

Ear­lier this year, the Nizwa project launched two new in­no­va­tive health pro­mo­tion ac­tiv­i­ties: the ‘To­bacco-free souq’ in the open-air Nizwa tra­di­tional mar­ket, and the Healthy Restau­rants Ini­tia­tive.

Unit­ing peo­ple and lead­ers from dif­fer­ent sec­tors be­hind a com­mon goal to in­ten­sify ac­tion to im­prove the health of Oma­nis has been part of WHO’s work. “Such col­lab­o­ra­tion has re­sulted in sig­nif­i­cant re­duc­tion of salt con­sump­tion. Re­duc­ing salt con­tent in food was a mea­sure sup­ported by many lo­cal food pro­duc­ers, par­tic­u­larly Oman’s main bak­eries, who sup­ply 90 per cent of all bread prod­ucts,” the or­gan­i­sa­tion said.

Since 2015, Oman has been suc­cess­ful in achiev­ing a ten per cent re­duc­tion of salt con­tent in bread items within main bak­eries. In 2016, this ini­tia­tive es­tab­lished a more am­bi­tious ob­jec­tive of 20 per cent salt re­duc­tion in breads and broad­ened its fo­cus to cheese as well. The es­ti­mated av­er­age in­take of salt con­sump­tion in Oman is close to 10g per per­son per day. This is dou­ble WHO rec­om­men­da­tions.

More than 50 per cent of Omani men and women are over­weight or obese, more than 40 per cent have hy­per­ten­sion, and 12 per cent have been di­ag­nosed with di­a­betes. One in five Oma­nis dies be­fore their 70th birth­day, most from largely pre­ventable car­dio­vas­cu­lar dis­eases. “In Nizwa, estab­lish­ing a to­bacco-free souq was the next big step in to­bacco con­trol fol­low­ing its in­door smok­ing ban is­sued in 2010. A sur­vey con­ducted by lo­cal vol­un­teers in 2016 found near unan­i­mous sup­port for the smok­ing ban by com­mu­nity mem­bers, busi­ness own­ers, lo­cal vis­i­tors and in­ter­na­tional tourists alike,” WHO stated.

The sec­ond step un­der con­sid­er­a­tion is ban on sale of to­bacco prod­ucts in the mar­ket, Dr An­qoudi told Mus­cat Daily. “We are work­ing on hav­ing such a ban. We are also in talks with the au­thor­i­ties to ex­pand the smoke­free souq con­cept to other gov­er­norates.”

The Healthy Restau­rants Ini­tia­tive is a first for Oman and one of the few of its kind in the East­ern Mediter­ranean Re­gion. Three restau­rants have vol­un­teered to pi­lot lo­cally-de­vel­oped guide­lines for healthy food op­tions on their menus that are low in salt, fat and sugar. “Cur­rently we are pro­vid­ing train­ing to chefs and food han­dlers on healthy food prepa­ra­tions,” Dr An­qoudi said.

“It’s en­cour­ag­ing to see such gen­uine com­mit­ment from the food and bev­er­age in­dus­try in Oman to try to work to­wards mak­ing a change for the bet­ter­ment of health,” said Dr As­mus Ham­merich, di­rec­tor of NCDs in WHO’s East­ern Mediter­ranean Re­gional Of­fice.

(Sup­plied photo)

The launch of the ini­tia­tive at Nizwa Souq

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