‘Pre­mar­i­tal screen­ing should be made manda­tory in sul­tanate’

Muscat Daily - - FRONT PAGE - Our Cor­re­spon­dent

A ma­jor­ity of high school stu­dents in the sul­tanate want pre­mar­i­tal screen­ing (PMS) to be made manda­tory, a new study has found. While more than onethird agreed there should be laws to stop mar­riage in cases of pos­i­tive PMS re­sults.

Oman ranks among the top seven Arab coun­tries in terms of con­san­guin­ity rates, where 39 per cent of Oma­nis are mar­ried to their first cousins and such mar­riages tend to re­sult in in­creased ex­pres­sion of au­to­so­mal re­ces­sive dis­or­ders or hered­i­tary blood dis­or­ders.

Ac­cord­ing to the World Health Or­ga­ni­za­tion, 28 per cent of deaths in chil­dren be­low five years of age in Oman are due to in­her­ited blood dis­or­ders. The most com­mon in­her­ited blood dis­or­ders are glu­cose-6-phos­phate de­hy­dro­ge­nase (G6PD) de­fi­ciency, tha­las­saemia and sickle cell anaemia.

The study ‘ Aware­ness and

At­ti­tude To­wards the Pre­mar­i­tal Screen­ing Pro­gramme Among High School Stu­dents in Mus­cat, Oman’ pub­lished in the Sul­tan Qa­boos Uni­ver­sity Med­i­cal Journal, was con­ducted in ten pub­lic high schools in Mus­cat.

A to­tal of 1,541 par­tic­i­pants an­swered the ques­tion­naire. Most par­tic­i­pants (78.1 per cent) were aware of the avail­abil­ity of the PMS pro­gramme. The ma­jor­ity of stu­dents (87.4 per cent) be­lieved that PMS is im­por­tant and most stu­dents (87.2 per cent) in­di­cated that they would un­dergo PMS. Over half of the stu­dents (55.3 per cent) agreed that PMS should be manda­tory be­fore mar­riage and ap­prox­i­mately one-third (38.3 per cent) were in favour of hav­ing laws and reg­u­la­tions to pre­vent con­san­guineous mar­riages. Fe­males were sig­nif­i­cantly more in favour of mak­ing it manda­tory and en­forc­ing the PMS laws com­pared to males.

Ac­cord­ing to the study, Oman’s PMS pro­gramme is of­fered free to all Omani cou­ples plan­ning to get mar­ried. How­ever, the pro­gramme is not pop­u­lar and its util­i­sa­tion is low.

Ac­cord­ing to 2014 Min­istry of

Health sta­tis­tics, Oman’s es­ti­mated level of PMS pro­gramme util­i­sa­tion is ten per cent. How­ever, sev­eral other screen­ing pro­grammes in GCC and Mediter­ranean coun­tries have been very ef­fec­tive. In Iran, the in­ci­dence of tha­las­saemia has been re­duced by 70 per cent and in Le­banon the in­ci­dence com­pa­ra­bly de­creased by 75 per cent as a re­sult of PMS pro­grammes.

‘These find­ings high­light the need to in­crease stu­dents’ aware­ness and im­prove their knowl­edge and at­ti­tudes to­wards Oman’s PMS pro­gramme. It is of ut­most im­por­tance that health­care ser­vices em­bed a well-struc­tured health-re­lated pro­gramme within a schools’ cur­ric­ula,’ the study found.

‘A school-based pro­gramme should go hand-in-hand with a com­mu­nity-based health ed­u­ca­tion pro­gramme.

‘Aware­ness cam­paigns should ex­tend to the com­mu­nity and in­volve fam­ily mem­bers and friends. Re­li­gious lead­ers and law­mak­ers are also im­por­tant con­trib­u­tors and can help to in­crease com­pli­ance and util­i­sa­tion of the PMS pro­gramme.’

The study was con­ducted by Rahma M al Kindi, Saraswathi Kan­nekanti, Jansi Natara­jan, Lina Shak­man, Zeinab al Azri and Naifain I al Kal­bani.

A to­tal of 1,541 par­tic­i­pants an­swered the ques­tion­naire

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