KUWAIT: The Sheikh Jaber Al-Ahmad Hospital; a major health-related project of Kuwait’s development plan for 2035.

KUWAIT: Realizing the interrelation between healthy nutrition and the socio-economic development, the Ministry of Health (MoH) approved a set of indicators to gauge improvement in nutrition in its agenda for 2035. Based on the World Health Organization's (WHO) Global Action Plan for the Prevention and Control of Non-communicable Diseases for 2013-2020, previously approved by the ministry, the new indicators aim to prevent and manage the chronic diseases. One of these indicators is to raise the public awareness about the need to cut down sodium consumption to 30 percent.

The Ministry has recently reached a deal with the Kuwait Flour Mills and Bakeries Company to reduce salt in bread by 20 percent, and is working to add Vitamin D to staples ingredients. The new measures and the activation of medical protocols produced positive results as shown in the rise of age average to 79.6 years in the 2015 and decline of the mortality rate of children below five to 8.8 per 1,000 children in 2014.  In its recent public health indicators, WHO recognized Kuwait's efforts to shift from the millennium development goals to the more ambitious sustainable development goals (SDGs).

Eradication of polio

Minister of Health Dr Jamal Al-Harbi said "One of the most remarkable achievements, made by the country is the eradication of polio in the recent years thanks to the expansion of vaccination coverage to 99.5 percent."

"The successes, recently made, encouraged the Ministry to shift from the stage of treating the nutrition-related chronic diseases to that of prevention through surveillance, early diagnosing and awareness campaigns," he pointed out.  "The indicators of the strategy for the healthcare system also include a program for medical accreditation that aims to make sure that the national health facilities meet the global standards regarding a patient's right to safe access to decent treatment, medication and privacy.

"The ministry started restructuring the healthcare system so as to provide quality service to patients, build the capacity of medical and nursing personnel, turn the primary health centers in industrial areas to specialized ones, and increase the number of internationally-accredited health cities to five each year," the minister added.

Quality service

In this context, head of the ministry's standards and indicators department Dr Malak Al-Ali said the ministry aspires to ensure provide quality and effective health service make Kuwait free of medical errors, thus saving a lot of financial resources and human effort.

"The ministry's ambitious strategy for 2035 includes, inter alia, programs for expanding the bed occupancies of hospitals, accrediting Kuwait as a regional center for disease control and prevention, the national program for accreditation of health services, and reducing the salt ratio in bread by 20 percent," she noted.  "The Ministry is working to upgrade the healthcare system through combating the nun-communicable diseases, training the national medical cadres, and leveraging initiative of single electronic file across 107 primary health centers, 32 specialized hospitals, six general hospitals, and 60 central directorates and offices. Its vision is in keeping with the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, adopted by world leaders in September 2015 at an historic UN Summit."

"This vision falls in five-year plans costing up to KD 3 billion (some $9.87 billion)," Dr Ali pointed out. The ministry's strategy focuses on sound nutrition and combating chronic diseases that constitute the main cause of death and disability, given the fact that Kuwait is one of the countries that have worrying rates of obesity and diabetes.  Kuwait's rating on the global diabetes index retreated from 205 in 2013 to 207 in the following year. The number of diabetic adults in Kuwait hit 400,000 in 2015 with the rate of new cases representing 37.1 per 100,000 persons.  Kuwait is world's third country in terms of ratio of diabetic to healthy children under the age of 15, according to figures of the International Diabetes Federation (IDF).

The Ministry adopted a new nutrition-based approach to treating all diseases, director of the nutrition department Dr Nawal Al-Qa'ood said. "Recent surveys showed that sound nutrition plays pivotal role in strengthening the immune system and combating epilepsy; this is why the Ministry is reducing salt and fats in staples, particularly the meals offered to patients," Dr Qa'ood added.

The national program for the prevention and control of non-communicable diseases aims to bring down by five percent the mortality rates resulting from heart diseases, diabetes, chest diseases, and common cancers such as colon, prostate, and breast cancers, she added. - KUNA