MOH News
On Behalf of the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques, Dr. Al-Rabeeah Opens the Global Conference on Healthy Lifestyles
10 September 2012
   On behalf of the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques, King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz, May Allah protect him, His Excellency the Minister of Health, Dr. Abdullah bin Abdulaziz Al-Rabeeah, inaugurated last night the Global Conference on Healthy Lifestyles and Non-communicable Diseases in the Arab World and Middle East, hosted by Riyadh from 10 to 12 September 2012.
 
The patron of the inauguration, His Excellency the Minister of Health, delivered a speech in which he was quoted as saying, “I would like to extend the greetings of the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques to all attendees. He designated me to act on his behalf in the inauguration of this highly important conference. To all of you I would say: Welcome to Saudi Arabia; the Kingdom of Knowledge and Humanity.”
 
“Since the dawn of history,” Dr. Al-Rabeeah added, “all religions has been always reiterating the importance of balance and moderation in eating and drinking, and the pursuance of whatever path that maintains a healthy and safe life. Driven by this impulse, all health systems have been always prompting peoples towards the adoption of healthy diets, exercising and changing lifestyles to the better, such that maintains their health and happiness.”
 
“Notwithstanding all such self-evident tips and instructions,” Al-Rabeeah continued, “today's world is still facing wicked epidemics, and hazardous diseases posing imminent danger to people's lives, and depleting economic resources. Recent statistics show that non-communicable diseases (such as cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, respiratory diseases, kidney diseases, eye diseases, tumors, etc.) claim the lives of 36 million people every year. Moreover, this ratio is projected to leap up to 52 million by 2030. Based foregoing, non-communicable diseases stand out at the main cause of death around the world. And they are still on the increase due to the prevalence of obesity, tobacco-use, neglect of exercise, and the like causes that could be avoided and overcome.”
 
Dr. Al-Rabeeah went on to say, “It was for all such reasons and serious indications that the United Nations and the World Health Organization, as well as governments and health authorities, have taken non-communicable diseases as a top priority, and induced countries to develop integrated and comprehensive plans for the prevention of such diseases, and raising people's awareness of their risk, in close cooperation with all ministries, as well as civil society institutions and private sector, given the imminent danger posed by non-communicable diseases.”
 
Dr. Al-Rabeeah pointed out that it was from this very standpoint that the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques, May Allah protect him, called for this important conference hosted by the City of Science and Civilization: Riyadh. This generous invitation was welcomed by the World Health Organization (WHO), the Council of Arab Ministers of Health, and the GCC Council of Health Ministers.
 
According to Dr. Al-Rabeeah, this overwhelming response by health-associated prominent figures (ministers, scientists, experts, etc.) stands as a clear evidence of the large interaction and responsiveness of all stakeholders to overcome this imminent danger, in the hope that the conference will come up with both theoretical and practical recommendations that enable the region and the world to develop feasible operational plans, meant to overcome non-communicable diseases, leading up to a healthy and safe society.
Concluding his speech, His Excellency the Minister of Health, Dr. Abdullah bin Abdulaziz Al-Rabeeah, thanked the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques, and His Royal Highness the Crown Prince, May Allah protect them. He also extended thanks to all participants, attendees, and those who offered their support to make success of this eminent conference.
 
The Deputy Minister of Health for Public Health, Dr. Zeyad Memish, for his part, delivered a speech in which he thanked His Excellency the Minister of Health, Dr. Abdullah bin Abdulaziz Al-Rabeeah for his patronage of the conference, on behalf of the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques, and his prudent follow-up of all aspects of health affairs in the Kingdom, as well as in the Arab World and the entire world.
 
Dr. Memish was quoted as saying, “The burdens and threats triggered by non-communicable diseases make up one of the most impeding challenges facing the development process in the 21st century throughout the whole world. There are certain risk factors for non-communicable diseases, some of which are unchangeable and uncontrollable (such as age, gender and hereditary), however, there are many other behavioral risk factors that could be controlled and overcome, in addition to a third group, which are the biological factors  (such as hypertension, over-weight, obesity, and the pre-diabetes stage). As a matter of fact, individual behaviors are greatly affected by the social and economic norms, and environmental circumstances, which, in turn, affect indirectly on the other biological factors. The identification of such factors and circumstances are generally looked upon as the base upon which the way to overcome non-communicable diseases shall depend.”
 
Dr. Memish made clear that the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has been working in cooperation with the relevant local and international organizations, most notably the WHO, as well as many other organizations, in an endeavor to reach at effective solutions that enable us confront non-communicable diseases, and their accompanying economic and social burdens.
 
“Frankly speaking,” Memish expounded, “the health sector is unable to find a viable method to put an end to the quagmire of non-communicable diseases, which have been deteriorating over decades of changes of lifestyles. This requires us to make every effort to minimize risk factors, maintain a healthy environment, enhance the national health policies and systems, and strengthen the international participation and collaboration in the developmental and research fields.”
 
“That's why we believe the conference is a good opportunity for the exchange of experiences, and the formulation and adoption of the health strategies and policies that will enhance the public health, diminish the risk factors of non-communicable diseases. We are looking forward to come up with fruitful, effective and viable recommendations.”
 
For his part, the Regional Director for the WHO Eastern Mediterranean Region, Dr. Ala'oddin Al-Elwan, delivered a speech in which he placed particular emphasis on fiver important axes: the first has to do with non-communicable diseases as a serious problem posing imminent danger to development in the region's countries. The second of these axes highlights the fact that the harm of non-communicable diseases goes beyond the health sector, as it affects the economic and social aspects as well. The third investigates the possibility of avoiding these diseases, whereas the fourth reiterates the importance of high-level political commitment and multi-sector cooperation in the battle against these diseases. The fifth axe made clear that the political declaration develops a roadmap for the member states to overcome non-communicable diseases.
 
Dr. Elwan expressed his hope that the conference will encourage all countries to put their commitments into effect, and that the WHO will continue to make every effort to support countries and promote their programs and procedures, seeking to defeat non-communicable diseases, or, at least, alleviate their effects.
For her part, the Minister Plenipotentiary, the Director of Health and Humanitarian Aids, and Head of the Technical Secretary of the Council of Arab Ministers of Health, Dr. Layla Nejm, said that the Arab League and its health-associated agencies, most notably the Council of Arab Ministers of Health, pay close attention to achieving health security for the Arab peoples, and the provision of the highest healthcare levels possible. Within this very framework, the Council of Arab Ministers of Health, in its 37th regular session, held in Amman in March 2012, took a resolution regarding the preparation for the third course of the Arab Economic and Social Development Summit, yet to be hosted by Riyadh in January 2013. The fourth paragraph of the resolution stipulated that “the member states should effectively participate in the Global Conference on Healthy Lifestyles and Non-communicable Diseases.”
 
Dr. Layla said, “Everyone knows that most Arab countries have taken momentous steps towards the promotion of the healthcare, by establishing MOH non-communicable diseases units, in addition to enhancing health systems and procedures and developing national plans. Nevertheless, all such efforts still lack comprehensiveness and integration. In light of the onset of a number of new non-communicable diseases and epidemics, a map should have clarify the prevalence of such diseases and epidemics, and the information of such a map has to be analyzed to identify the technical, economic and social indicators and effects. This should be relied upon, afterwards, in developing appropriate policies and strategies to defeat the diseases. Besides, governments have to do their best to minimize the effect of such risk factors as smoking, unhealthy nutrition, lack o exercise, and cancerous environmental triggers. Also, I would call upon governments to support the epidemiological research aiming at eradicating such diseases. The control of non-communicable diseases is a national responsibility to be assumed by relevant governmental authorities, as well as the civil society organizations and private sector.
 
His Excellency the Secretary-General of the Council of Arab Ministers of Health, Dr. Abdullatif al-Zayani, for his part, said that the approval of the GCC Non-communicable Diseases Control Plan, by their Royal Highness the Kings, Emirs, and Sultans of the GCC countries, stands out as a self-evident evidence of their awareness of the enormity of the problem. The GCC countries' ministers of health have been directed to develop operational plans for the GCC Plan, to address this serious problem, in a way that provides viable treatment for these diseases, in an effort to reduce the incidence of non-communicable diseases.
 
Dr. Al-Zayani added, “Our success in the materialization of this ambitious plan depends on our success in achieving of the pillars of healthcare, which is the prevention. The outbreak of non-communicable diseases in GCC countries requires all governments to harness all its capabilities for prevention, since it is the first defense line against these diseases, which pose imminent danger to our citizens, and consumes up our resources. Prevention, in its turn, depends on another healthcare pillar, which is awareness, without which no success could be ever expected.”
 
As his statement drew to a close, Dr. Al-Zayani expressed his thanks and appreciation for His Excellency the Saudi Minister of Health, and his assistants, for organizing this pivotal conference. He extended thanks to the participating organizations, speakers and researchers as well, hoping that the recommendations of this conference will receive MOH officials' interest.
 
In conclusion of the inauguration, Dr. Al-Rabeeah launched the exhibition held on the sidelines of the conference, in which several relevant agencies and institutions participate.
 



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