MOH News
Dr. Al-Rabeeah Presides over a Roundtable Discussion Attended by a Number of Ministers
10 September 2012
   At a roundtable discussion held on the sidelines of the Global Conference on Healthy Lifestyles and Non-communicable Diseases in the Arab World and Middle East, hosted by Riyadh, with the participation of a number of ministers, heads of delegations and specialists, several opinions and proposals were put forward with regard to the topics tackled by the conference. The roundtable discussion session was managed by His Excellency the Minister of Health, Dr. Abdullah bin Abdulaziz Al-Rabeeah.
His Excellency the Minister of Agriculture, Dr. Fahad Balghonaim, pointed out that non-communicable diseases are considered an economic burden lying on the society's shoulders. “The Ministry of Agriculture works in close cooperation with the Ministry of Health in the fight against epidemic diseases. The government has already supported the agricultural production, insomuch as the national product of vegetables is now covering 85% of the Saudi market needs, and 65% of the Kingdom's needs of fruits. This, of course, underscores the necessity of healthy food for a healthy lifestyle, which necessitates partnership and collaboration between both ministries.
For his part, His Excellency the Minister of Commerce and Industry, Dr. Tawfik Al-Rabeeah, stated that his ministry is keen to support investment in health fields (this support has mounted to SR 200 million). The ministry, besides, verifies the safety of imported food, and provides loans. He mentioned, also, that there's a joint project with the Ministry of Health aiming at the expansion of investment in the drug industry. Loans offered to health and pharmaceutical projects make up over 75% of the total loan allocations. Dr. Tawfik Al-Rabeeah revealed that his ministry is working on providing elaborate descriptions of all food products (specifications, ingredients, calories, etc.) in order to provide a full image for consumers.
Moving on to the measures intended to put an end to the prevalence of non-communicable diseases, and alleviate their risk, the Hungarian Minister of Health, Dr. Miklós Szócska, pointed out that among the most important measures to be considered when fighting non-communicable diseases is to enforce laws, raise people's awareness on the harm of much soft drinks, and encourage people to exercise.
In the same context, His Excellency the Egyptian Minister of Health, Dr. Mohamed Mustafa Hamed, made clear that putting an end to the prevalence of non-communicable diseases is likely to take fairly long time, depending on our ability to diminish the unhealthy behaviors entailing the incidence of such diseases. We need to be patient, or otherwise we will get disappointed unless we attain the desired outcomes soon.
Dr. Ali Khalil, the Lebanese Minister of Health, underscored health awareness and the verification of food safety. He called for launching campaigns for the early detection of diabetes, cancer, hypertension and heart diseases. “Such campaigns have been proved very important. The Lebanese experience in this domain provides evidence on the importance of such campaigns in limiting non-communicable diseases. Besides, smoking has been banned in all public places,” said Dr. Khalil.
As far as the efforts exerted by the GCC countries are concerned, His Excellency the Secretary-General of the GCC, Dr. Abdullatif Al-Zayani, affirmed that the Secretariat adopts a strategy to link the GCC countries one another, with regard to the health field, and supports all the recommendations agreed upon by these countries. It is also interested in applying them as soon as possible to advance with the health and safety of the GCC citizen.
As for the health-associated cultural and educational aspects, His Excellency the Bahraini Minister of Education, Dr. Majed Al- Nuaimi, pointed out that prevention of diseases should be directed towards children, especially school pupils. He added that there is an insufficiency on the media part with regard to broadcasting the awareness programs, emphasizing that we are in need of venues to practice the sporting activities; and to reinforce the concept of school health.
The Saudi Deputy Minister of Education, Dr. Khalid Al-Sabti, voiced the same opinion, stating that we have a strategy to reinforce the healthy behaviors among the female pupils and school pupils, and to organize diverse activities. A thousand clubs are going to be inaugurated in the various districts, presenting its services at the end of the week and recreational activities for boys and girls. On the cleaning level, he lauded the efforts exerted in this field, as well as school nutrition, and reinforcing cleaning standards among pupils.
In his recommendation proposed to the roundtable discussion, His Excellency the Tunisian Minister of Health, Dr. Abdullatif Al-Mekki, said that all such diseases and challenges are very unlikely to be defeated by the ministries of health only. “No success in this domain could ever be attained without effective cooperation and consolidation of efforts,” Al-Mekki stressed. He also suggested launching health awareness a TV channel, run by health experts, in an effort to deliver an integrated health awareness message to the entire Arab society.
In his proposal to the discussion, for his part, the Regional Director of the WHO Eastern Mediterranean Region, Dr. Alaa Elwan, called for partnership of health sectors in support of the health aspect, which will be reflected on people's health and prosperity in the long term, thus ensuring there won't be discrepancy among governmental sectors.
The Saudi Deputy Minister of Culture and Information, Dr. Abdullah Al-Jasser, called for a partnership between the Ministry of Information and the Ministry of Health, regarding awareness programs, and allocating a proper budget for such programs. He was quoted as saying, “We staunchly advocate the MOH's proposal. There should be a partnership between the Ministry of Information and the Ministry of Health, regarding awareness programs. And a proper budget should be allocated to health awareness at the level of the Kingdom and the GCC countries.”
Also, the Deputy Director of the Food and Drug Authority for Food Affairs, Dr. Ibrahim Al-Mehaiza', said in his intervention, delivered on behalf of the Director, that the authority has put forward two draft laws centered upon food and fodder, on the one hand, and the food card and nutrition information regarding pesticides, flavors and fragrances on the other hand. As his statement drew to a close, he shed light on the GCC mutual cooperation meant to support the conference's resolutions and recommendations.
Speaking from the standpoint of the municipal affairs, the Deputy Minister of Municipal and Rural Affairs, Mr. Abdulrahman Al-Mansour, expounded that the ministry is keen to work in cooperation with the Ministry of Health regarding the control of food commodities, raising people's health awareness, and establishing entertainment venues and green areas.
The Kuwaiti Minister of Health, for his part, affirmed that his country is keen to participate effectively in all the events targeting improving people's health and quality of life.
Speaking of the legal aspects, and their effect on reinforcing public health, Dr. Mohamed Al-Ja'fari, a member of the Shura Council, mentioned that the Council seeks to introduce legislations meant to reduce the prevalence and incidence of non-communicable diseases, and raise people's awareness of unhealthy habits and behaviors, taking obesity as an example. “The solution of such problems resides in increasing the budgets allocated for the ministries of health, and reinforcing preventive health, thus helping minimize cost,” Al-Ja'fari said.
At the end of the roundtable discussion session, His Excellency the Saudi Minister of Health, Dr. Abdullah bin Abdulaziz Al-Rabeeah, thanked attendees and participants, meanwhile reiterating the recommendations and remarks made and discussed during the session: including the enactment of the necessary legislations for the prevention of non-communicable diseases, and underscoring the environmental and media aspects of prevention.

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