The Ministry of Health (MoH) launched a three-year Kingdom-wide awareness campaign on noncommunicable diseases (NCDs) at its headquarters in Riyadh on Monday.
The program was inaugurated by Mansour Al-Hawasi, deputy minister of health for planning. Ziad Al-Memish, undersecretary to the Ministry of Health for Public Health, and Health Ministry spokesman Khalid Al-Mirghalani were also present.
Al-Hawasi said the program, funded by the Tamer Group of Companies, is aimed at reducing the incidence of NCDs. The program, dubbed “Your Health Is Important,” will carry health messages across the Kingdom.
The deputy minister said the program is a clear symbol of public and private sector partnership for the welfare of residents in the Kingdom. He pointed out that chronic diseases such as diabetes, obesity and hypertension are on the increase. “Unless we take some interest in preventing the occurrence of these diseases, we may have to see more patients suffering from such maladies,” he noted.
Al-Hawasi formally opened a website to enable people to recognize preventive and curative measures in the fight against NCDs.
Al-Mirghani said that NCDs are mainly due to unhealthy practices, lack of awareness about the hazards of the diseases and people following unsound lifestyles.
The spokesman said the program is designed to introduce health patterns that would benefit people in the Kingdom. He lamented that lack of exercise, excessive consumption of sugar and salt and smoking are contributory factors in developing NCDs.
Spelling out details of the incidences of the disease, he said diabetes is prevalent among 28 percent of those above the age of 30 years, with 21 percent of patients suffering from hypertension and a mortality rate of 22 percent among those diagnosed.
Ayman M. Tamer, chairman and managing partner of the Tamer Group, said that his company’s assistance of SR375 million for this project comes within the framework of the Saudi Arabian Aid program in line with corporate social responsibility. “We participate in programs such as health awareness, empowerment of women, helping individuals with special needs and other deserving programs with the aim of assisting community members,” he added.
Around 25 percent of the 20,000 Home Healthcare Program (HHP) patients suffer from NCDs such as diabetes, cardiac and renal diseases, while 23 percent suffer from paralytic stroke and neural diseases.
A recent National Commercial Bank report said that the Kingdom’s population would reach an estimated 31.69 million by 2015. The growth rate for Saudi nationals would continue to rise, while the proportion of expatriates would increase at a decelerated rate in comparison to previous influxes spurred by economic booms.
The significance of this demographic shift is that Saudis have developed a predisposition to lifestyle diseases that will translate into an expensive medical profile requiring complex treatment in the long-term. This will increase demand for enhanced medical facilities.
The number of Saudis past the retirement age of 60 will grow by 27 percent by 2015, the report said, adding that this age group will account for approximately 4.7 percent of the total population in 2015, or 1.4 million people, an increase from the current 4.4 percent.
This development will lead to an increase in demand for high-cost medical care to treat diseases that typically affect older patients.