WELL, WELL, WELL…

Qatar 2020 | HEALTH | FOCUS

The numbers make for a good read. In 2014, Qatar's healthcare spending as a percentage of its USD206.2 billion GDP was 2.2%, with the state stumping up virtually 90% of total health expenditure. The vertigo-inducing USD6.2 billion invested in healthcare—universal incidentally—in 2018 was, YoY, actually 4% up. And as of 2016, life expectancy was 78.18. Better yet, Qatar's health system is ranked fifth-best best in the world, while leading the Middle East if you ask London-based think tank the Legatum Institute, which publishes the Legatum Prosperity Index.

A Responsibility Shared
So far, so healthy, but the government is looking beyond treating the sick by turning the tables on the citizen. Habits are notoriously easy to form and hard to break. With this in mind, Qatar is prepping the conditions for lifestyles that embrace preventive health to right familiar health-related wrongs for sustainable health. So, the Qatar National Vision 2030 (QNV) targets the raft of non-communicable diseases that are by and large avoidable.

Strategic Thinking
The National Health Strategy 2018-2022, then, is nothing short of a blueprint for the lifespan of the Qatari. With fresh arrivals in mind, by 2022 Qatar intends to register a 5% rise in exclusive breastfeeding of children at six months. Further along the age curve, a 25% rise in the proportion of adolescents engaging in recommended physical activity is hoped for. And at the extreme end, the strategy aims to have increased, by a year, the healthy life years (HLYs) of the over 65-year-old. And while the government would like to stub out smoking altogether, it would settle for a 30% reduction by 2022.

The Big Screen
Primary healtcare is, of course, as effective as the timely nature of screening. Qatar's national breast and bowel cancer screening program, Screen for Life, duly urges women aged 45-69 to pursue systematic risk mitigation. And for bowel cancer, the scheme recommends men and women aged 50-74 without symptoms to opt for screening. The Ministry of Public Health (MoPH) also aims, by 2022, to altogether eliminate the prevalence of type C viral hepatitis among Qataris, a disease registering at 0.8% of the population. An achievable goal, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).

No Sugar Coating
Essentially, non-communicable diseases, an ironic product of economic wellbeing, are in the government's crosshairs as wholly reversable. The MoPH, as ever, somberly observed World Diabetes Day on November 14, as 17% of Qatari adults—over double the 8% global count—lived with the disease. Qatar counts among the region's highest ratios of diabetes and obesity. And since the two conditions go hand in glove, address the latter and the former declines. A four-phase campaign is promoting early and a lifestyle that curbs the potential of developing the disease. National targets by 2022 include a 5% slashing of obesity in children, adolescents, and adults and a 15% cut in preventable hospital admissions for primary care sensitive conditions such as hypertension, cardiovascular disease, asthma, and diabetes, all exacerbated by poor lifestyle choices.

Addiction
Addiction is a portmanteau term for a vast array of dependencies. And the 2020 budget takes addiction very seriously indeed. A new Permanent Committee for addiction treatment has been created within the Ministry of Public Health to coordinate state and NGO programs addressing the issue.
Being human is being fallible. Therefore, Qatar's government hopes over time to nurture a public sense of responsibility for personal health. The programs in place should help make this a less painful process.