PRE­VEN­TION BET­TER THAN CURE

QATAR'S LAT­EST HEALTH STRAT­EGY STRESSES THE IM­POR­TANCE OF MAIN­TAIN­ING A PROPER LIFE­STYLE.

Qatar Today - - HEALTH | VIEWPOINT - This Qatar eco­nomic up­date was pro­duced by Ox­ford Busi­ness Group. BY OLIVER CORNOCK Man­ag­ing Editor, Mid­dle East Ox­ford Busi­ness Group

Healthy life­style pro­mo­tion will be a key com­po­nent of Qatar's new six-year health strat­egy, as it takes proac­tive mea­sures to re­duce the preva­lence of non-com­mu­ni­ca­ble dis­eases and lighten the bur­den of ter­tiary care.

The Na­tional Health Strat­egy 2017-22 – to be pub­lished by the end of this year fol­low­ing a pub­lic con­sul­ta­tion process that be­gan in May – aligns with the over­ar­ch­ing Na­tional Vi­sion 2030, which states that a healthy pop­u­la­tion is cru­cial for the fu­ture suc­cess of Qatar.

One in six adults in Qatar suf­fers from di­a­betes, cost­ing the health­care sys­tem some QR1.8 bil­lion ($494.3 mil­lion) per year, ac­cord­ing to Dr Hanan Mo­hamed Al Kuwari, Min­is­ter of Pub­lic Health.

“With­out changes, the num­ber of peo­ple with di­a­betes will po­ten­tially dou­ble over the next 40 years, im­pact­ing more peo­ple and their fam­i­lies and putting more pres­sure on the health sys­tem,” she told Ox­ford Busi­ness Group (OBG). “How­ever, this is not in­evitable: by cre­at­ing pub­lic health pro­grammes that en­cour­age young peo­ple to live health­ier life­styles, we can help more peo­ple avoid di­a­betes.”

APART FROM PRO­MOT­ING HEALTH­IER LIFE­STYLES, QATAR'S NEW HEALTH STRAT­EGY WILL FO­CUS ON EX­PAND­ING MED­I­CAL FACILITIES AND DE­LIV­ER­ING POLI­CIES THAT IM­PROVE THE QUAL­ITY, SAFETY AND EF­FI­CIENCY OF CARE.

Gov­ern­ment ef­forts to tackle so-called life­style dis­eases, Al Kuwari said, will in­clude work­ing with schools to cre­ate bet­ter aware­ness of healthy eat­ing and ex­er­cis­ing, de­liv­er­ing more pro­grammes to help peo­ple quit smok­ing, sup­port­ing young peo­ple to have bet­ter oral health and work­ing with other gov­ern­ment min­istries to re­duce in­stances of asthma by im­prov­ing air qual­ity.

Rise in non-com­mu­ni­ca­ble dis­eases

A re­port pub­lished in 2015 by the then-Supreme Coun­cil of Health named five main non-com­mu­ni­ca­ble dis­eases (NCDs) that will af­fect Qatar: car­dio­vas­cu­lar dis­eases, men­tal health and be­havioural dis­or­ders, cancer, res­pi­ra­tory dis­eases and di­a­betes.

It at­trib­uted the rise of NCDs largely to chang­ing de­mo­graph­ics and shift­ing life­style habits such as poor diet and in­suf­fi­cient ex­er­cise.

A sep­a­rate study pub­lished in 2013 by Strat­egy&, a sub­sidiary of con­sul­tancy PwC, cal­cu­lated that treat­ing these five NCDs could cost Qatar $2,778 per capita by 2022, com­pared to $758 in Saudi Ara­bia and $603 in Oman.

More re­cent fig­ures from PwC showed that Qatar spends more per head than any other coun­try in the re­gion, with NCDs ac­count­ing for 22% of to­tal health spend­ing last year, com­pared to av­er­ages of 7-11% for Bahrain, Kuwait, Saudi Ara­bia and the UAE.

Ramp­ing up devel­op­ment

Apart from pro­mot­ing health­ier life­styles, Qatar's new health strat­egy will fo­cus on ex­pand­ing med­i­cal facilities and de­liv­er­ing poli­cies that im­prove the qual­ity, safety and ef­fi­ciency of care.

Cen­tral to this will be an over­haul of first-tier pro­vi­sion: Pri­mary Health Care Cor­po­ra­tion (PHCC), a gov­ern­ment-run net­work, plans to build 20 new health cen­tres, sub­ject to bud­get ap­provals, and ei­ther re­place or re­fur­bish the ex­ist­ing ones, bring­ing the to­tal to 33 by the end of 2021.

The goal is to shift to­wards a new model fo­cused on pre­ven­tion, ac­cord­ing to Mariam Ali Ab­dul­ma­lik, CEO of PHCC.

“Pri­mary care will pro­mote good health and re­duce the need for hospi­tal ad­mis­sions by help­ing pa­tients to live well, di­ag­nos­ing risks and con­di­tions ear­lier, sup­port­ing pa­tients in man­ag­ing their own care and, when needed, ac­tively man­ag­ing their con­di­tions in their homes and com­mu­ni­ties,” she told OBG.

As part of this strat­egy, PHCC be­gan run­ning ‘Smart' health checks in Jan­uary to iden­tify risk fac­tors and di­ag­nose pre­vi­ously un­de­tected med­i­cal con­di­tions. Fol­low­ing an eval­u­a­tion of the pilot pro­gramme, a plan will be de­vel­oped to roll out this ser­vice at pri­mary health­care cen­tres na­tion­wide.

Pri­vate sec­tor in­volve­ment

PHCC is also look­ing at the pos­si­bil­ity of us­ing pub­lic-pri­vate part­ner­ships (PPPs) to open some of the new pri­mary health cen­tres al­ready in the pipeline.

“The PPP model be­ing de­vel­oped for the ed­u­ca­tion sec­tor could also ap­ply to health care,” Ab­dul­ma­lik told OBG. A pro­posed law reg­u­lat­ing PPPs in Qatar is ex­pected to be pub­lished by the end of this year, ac­cord­ing to local me­dia re­ports.

PHCC ini­tially planned to trans­fer man­age­ment and op­er­a­tion of two of its largest pri­mary health cen­tres to a third party in 2014, but the gov­ern­ment de­cided that PPPs should be re­stricted to new health cen­tres in or­der to gen­er­ate greater in­ter­est from pri­vate in­vestors.

None­the­less, PHCC has al­ready trans­ferred two health cen­tres to Qatar Red Cres­cent, a char­i­ta­ble or­gan­i­sa­tion, and has in­tro­duced new ser­vices such as cancer screen­ing in col­lab­o­ra­tion with pri­vate sec­tor part­ners

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