Dealing with public health

According to the World Health Organisation, 50% of the Middle East’s population is overweight and weight-related conditions are at crisis levels. Local authorities also confirm a diabetes rate of up to 20% in the UAE. Meanwhile, dentists in Saudi Arabia are reporting a worryingly low rate of awareness of dental hygiene procedures amongst their patients.

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By  David Ingham Published  December 12, 2005

|~||~||~|According to the World Health Organisation, 50% of the Middle East’s population is overweight and weight-related conditions are at crisis levels. Local authorities also confirm a diabetes rate of up to 20% in the UAE.

Meanwhile, dentists in Saudi Arabia are reporting a worryingly low rate of awareness of dental hygiene procedures amongst their patients. More than half of the dentists interviewed in a Braun survey (page 7, ‘Dentists in KSA express concerns’) confirmed that the majority of their patients suffer from tooth cavities, gum diseases or tooth decay due to a lack of proper oral hygiene habits.

In both the cases described above, lack of awareness is a major factor behind the problem, along with increasingly sedentary lifestyles and growing consumption of processed and fast foods. The question is how to make the public aware of the risks of our modern lifestyle and how to make them take the problem seriously.

What often appears to be lacking in the region are public health campaigns that emphasise the need to watch one’s diet and take more exercise. For many, it may be obvious that too much sugar, fat and salt is bad for you. So why remind people?

The same thing could be said, however, about smoking. Everyone knows the habit can kill them, but that hasn’t prevented regional authorities intensifying their anti-smoking campaigns.

Another point that needs to be examined is the role of the food industry in public health. Do the supermarkets and fast food joints that sell processed and fast food bear any reponsibility for the health of their customers? Should food manufacturers, for example, be forced to list daily recommended intake values on labels?

The issue is a complex one and the answers are not easy. What is your view? Is enough being done to promote public health in the region? E-mail me on: david.ingham@itp.com

David Ingham, Group Editor||**||

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