x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

Changes being made in student health care

The Ministry of Health will merge school health care with primary care in the northern emirates.

ABU DHABI // The Ministry of Health announced that school health services will be merged with primary care in Umm al Qaiwain, Ajman and Fujairah. Dr Mahmoud Fikri, the executive director of health policy at the ministry, said the main school health clinics would still provide pupils with preventive health care and supervise school health programmes through school doctors and nurses.

The ministry, which has jurisdiction over all emirates except Abu Dhabi and Dubai, announced in September that it would conduct a review that would consider the psychological and physical condition of pupils. Doctors in the northern emirates were instructed to assess thousands of children. The Dubai Health Authority indicated it would hold a similar review. Statistics show a high prevalence of diabetes and obesity among the nation's young people.

A study published in 2006 by the medical journal Obesity Reviews said 21.5 per cent of schoolchildren in the Gulf region were overweight, and 13.7 per cent of them were obese. Other problems were high cholesterol and type-2 diabetes. Research by Sheikh Khalifa Medical City in Abu Dhabi found that 20 to 25 per cent of Emiratis have diabetes, while studies by Health Authority-Abu Dhabi found that more than half of Emiratis aged 30 to 64 had diabetes or were likely to develop it.

Dr Fikri said optimal health care would help pupils increase their ability to learn. The ministry has prepared a programme to provide high-quality school health services, including regular school health surveys and clinics. Dr Fikri stressed the MoH's commitment to caring for the psychological health students and the need to address bad habits such as unhealthful eating, smoking and lack of physical activity. Bullying, violence and stress were also part of the review.

Many doctors have called for schools to introduce more physical education for children. The three-month review in the northern emirates began in October. Results are to be published this year. mswan@thenational.ae