x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 21 July 2017

Teens are more health-conscious but they still try smoking, survey says

A survey released yesterday by the Ministry of Health found that UAE youth are aware of health issues.

DUBAI // Teenagers are showing an increasing awareness of health issues, the Ministry of Health has found in its first survey since 2005.

The sample of about 2,500 students between the ages of 12 and 16 from 52 schools in the UAE showed 85 per cent had heard of the HIV infection.

According to Dr Mahmoud Fikri, the Ministry of Health's executive director of health policies, that was "excellent" news.

"To have such a great amount of children aware of Aids at that age is a very positive sign for us," Dr Fikri said.

Healso said he was pleased that results showed that only 16 per cent of pupils were obese.

"We expected much more for the UAE," he said.

Almost 40 per cent of pupils in the study were overweight, but obesity was a more easily controlled condition, Dr Fikri noted, especially for youths in this age group.

Results for smoking, however, were mixed.

Eighty per cent of students said they had tried cigarettes for the first time at 14, or smoked on two consecutive days or more in a month, which Dr Fikri said was "not good at all".

"It is the age of trying and it is important for us to focus on this age group because we should not even allow them to try," he said.

Ninety-two per cent of those who had tried smoking quit within the first year, he said.

The survey also revealed that more than 60 per cent of the pupils were in a smoking environment more than once a week.

Dr Fikri said, however, that 85 per cent of the pupils said they "hated smoking".

The objective of the survey was to identify the priorities needed to develop programmes that contribute to the well-being of the nation's children.

"We want to know the direction and incidence of the behavioural issues in the area of non-communicable diseases," he said.

"We should know what programmes to implement in schools and for the health of the UAE's youth".

Prepared by the World Health Organisation in conjunction with other world health organisations, the survey, released yesterday, provided data on health and dietary behaviour, personal hygiene, physical activity and smoking.

cmalek@thenational.ae