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WHO to set up center for mass gathering medicine in Kingdom

RIYADH: The World Health Organization plans to set up an accredited center for mass gathering medicine within the Kingdom’s Ministry of Health (MoH), a senior official from the ministry announced here yesterday.
“This is not only a clear appreciation of the services rendered by the MoH in the field of mass gathering medicine, but the WHO has also involved the Kingdom in its global collaborative efforts to offer better health care services for the world population,” an official from the MoH said.
The WHO has appointed Ziad Al-Memish, undersecretary to the MoH for public health, to head this center for a period of four years.
Expressing his happiness over the new appointment, Al-Memish said the Kingdom has led the way in the field of mass gathering medicine and has gained considerable experience in this area, through its experience in managing millions of pilgrims at a specific time.
“We were also hailed by many international government and nongovernmental organizations for our dedicated efforts in the field of mass gathering medicine.”
Al-Memish pointed out that the Kingdom has already introduced a scientific diploma program for mass gathering medicine and crisis management. The program, he said, was accredited by the Saudi Council for Health Specialties, two years ago. The program was organized by the MoH under the aegis of Custodian of the two Holy Mosques King Abdullah.
Two years ago, the Kingdom hosted an international mass gathering medicine conference in Jeddah in October. The conference proposed the establishment of an international reference agency for mass gathering health with headquarters in the Kingdom.
Input from the conference definitely played an important role in facilitating the 2010 Haj season, said Khalid Al-Mirghalani, spokesman of the Ministry of Health, during the third and concluding day of the conference.
He also said several strategies were discussed during the conference regarding crisis management during Haj, the application of health regulations during mass gatherings and the management of public health risks during Haj.
“The event, attended by more than 500 health experts in addition to 35 international speakers, highlighted the Kingdom’s role in ensuring the safety and security of pilgrims, as well as the protection of their health,” said Al-Memish, then assistant deputy minister of health for preventive medicine and head of the conference.
The conference adopted the Jeddah Declaration on mass gathering health, the first regional and global declaration emphasizing the importance of providing holistic and health care services to beneficiaries, said Al-Memish.
The most tangible outcome of the conference were the strategies and benefits for upgrading mass gathering medicine worldwide, Al-Memish said, emphasizing the need to establish an international reference authority competent with regards to mass gathering medicine, and preferably based in the Kingdom.
This authority would be commissioned with several tasks, such as classifying and defining the terminology, tasks and mission of mass gathering health, developing mass gathering health culture, developing programs and systems based on the coordinates and outputs of potential and established research, conducting in-depth analytical studies on all aspects of mass gathering health, and creating a database to study and monitor the present situation to assess the extent of progress achieved in embedding this concept.
“The recommendations also called for feedback and futuristic studies, adopting measures to redress health systems on the national, regional and international levels, providing consultations and advice to various countries to develop mass gathering health plans and programs, and exchanging successful experiences in the area of mass gathering health in cooperation with relevant international agencies and organizations,” Al-Memish said.
It also called for developing plans for health awareness and information to educate people about mass gatherings during and after the event, taking into consideration the uniqueness of each gathering, in terms of location, preparations, cultures and timing.
Many experts emphasized the need to involve civil society and those involved in mass gatherings, such a pilgrims and Haj guides, in the health education awareness programs.
Al-Memish urged the WHO to adopt the creation of a specialized awareness program on mass gathering health.
The Saudi Medical Specialties Authority will be in charge of developing an academic framework for the mass gathering health discipline, encompassing the medical, environmental, and the health-related issues.

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