Harnessing Non-Communicable Diseases: Lessons for Health Professionals in the Middle Eastern Gulf

Harnessing Non-Communicable Diseases: Lessons for Health Professionals in the Middle Eastern Gulf

Nada M. Albawardi (Prince Sultan Center for Special Education Support Services, Saudi Arabia)
Copyright: © 2015 |Pages: 18
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-8702-8.ch005
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Abstract

Public health services in the developing world have predominately focused on curative rather than preventive strategies for managing communicable diseases. Non-communicable diseases however have now emerged as the leading threat to the health and socio-economic prosperity of these nations. The rising incidence of non-communicable diseases in Saudi Arabia and other Arabian Gulf countries now affects younger populations causing longer periods of ill health and decreased labour output. Prevention is vital in battling non-communicable diseases and reducing the strain on the health care system. Almost all non-communicable diseases share modifiable risk factors that require the attention of health care and other sectors to introduce greater preventive measures. This chapter will discuss factors contributing to the obstacles the health systems of countries of the Gulf Cooperation Council face in meeting the growing burden of non-communicable diseases and the steps taken to meet these challenges.
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Background

Over the years, many developing countries have continued to focus on curative medical services rather than preventive measures in tackling communicable diseases (CDs). With the escalation of non-communicable diseases (NCDs), such as cancer, chronic respiratory conditions, cardiovascular disease and diabetes mellitus, continuing to rely on a curative model is both time consuming and costly leading to an increased threat to the health and socio-economic prosperity of these nations (Who.int, 2011a). Unlike CDs, NCDs are often not caused by a single identifiable agent and require time consuming and costly interventions.

The ever rising incidence of NCDs in Saudi Arabia and other Arabian Gulf countries is not only causing concerns to the older cohorts but often appearing in younger populations at a higher rate than has been seen in the developed world (World Bank, 2010; Al-Daghri et al, 2011) thus causing longer periods of ill health and decreased labour output. Non-communicable diseases share modifiable risk factors that require the attention of the health care and other sectors to introduce greater preventive measures. Prevention is vital in battling NCDs and reducing the strain on the health care system (Who.int, 2011a). Countries bordering the Arabian Gulf region, the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), not only continue to battle CDs such as tuberculosis, hepatitis, malaria and schistosomiasis, but also suffer from a high rate of trauma caused mainly from road traffic accidents (Who.int, 2011b). In recent years, however, NCDs have increased dramatically to become the leading cause of death (Who.int, 2011b) and as nearly 32% of the population is under the age of fifteen this may be “the tip of the iceberg”.

The GCC have begun to address important obstacles such as building an equitable health system with greater involvement of nationals that will provide a more stable input of human resources to the health care system. Improving the quality and accessibility of services has also been vital to efficiently addressing the chronic nature of NCDs. Recognition of the importance of a multi-sector approach to tackling NCDs has been essential in shifting from a curative to a preventative model in the future. This chapter aims to discuss the factors contributing to the challenges the health systems in the GCC countries face in meeting the growing burden of NCDs.

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