UAE Ministry of Health Announces First Nutrition Strategy in the UAE

Dubai, 25th May 2010 – In cooperation with the World Health Organization “WHO” Mediterranean Regional Office, the Ministry of Health launched the first national nutrition strategy that aims for improving the nutritious status of all age groups among the UAE inhabitants.

Dr. Salem Al Darmaki, Acting Director of the Ministry of Health, said during the launch yesterday morning at the Grand Hyatt Hotel in Dubai, “The national nutrition strategy comes in response to the aspirations of our wise leadership for a better future for all inhabitants, pointing out that the health sector witnesses great progress under the leadership of H.H. Sheikh Khelifa Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, UAE President, and H.H.

Sheikh Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai and their Highnesses members of the Supreme Council and Rulers of the emirates”.

He added that the launch of the national nutrition strategy embodies the recent initiative of the Ministry of Health towards achieving excellence and improvement of health services in the UAE. He also pointed out that the UAE’s efforts in the health field has become very clear yet there are many challenges facing the health sector in the UAE and the proportional increase of non-communicable disease such as diabetes, heart diseases, high blood pressure due to the health patterns and behaviors of improper nutrition and physical inactivity.

He also referred that the Ministry of Health recognizes the importance of good nutrition as a basis for the prevention of non-communicable diseases explaining that the ministry has worked with the World Health Organization “WHO” to develop a national nutrition strategy for the years 2010-2015 for the purpose of improving the nutritious habits among the different society members especially women and children and reducing obesity and non-communicable diseases.

Al Darmaki stated that the Ministry in cooperation with the concerned government and private authorities will activate all the national programs that would increase the awareness of UAE nationals and expats regarding the importance of healthy habits and benefiting from various health services.

The Acting Director General stressed the necessity of activating early nutritional intervention programs noting that it has become an important factor for all primary healthcare programs because of its effective impact in the diagnosis and treatment of malnutrition diseases. The national nutrition strategy includes several components related to the dissemination of health and nutrition awareness among members of the society, promotion of breastfeeding and healthy foods and physical education in addition to the enhancement of mineral foods and micronutrients.

Al Darmaki assured the important role of information and health education and dissemination of correct information as well as the cooperation of the members of the society to disseminate the principles of correct nutrition and healthy habits starting from home to the educational schools, institutes and workplaces. The UAE national strategy depends on the regional strategy that has been lately prepared by the World Health Organization “WHO”.

It is noteworthy that nutrition related to chronic diseases is the major cause of morbidity and mortality in most regional and Arab countries generally and in the UAE specifically. The most important common diseases are coronary heart diseases, cerebrovascular diseases, injuries, high blood pressure in addition to cancers and obesity. There was a common thought recently that such diseases are usually spread among developed societies yet indicators show that the prevalence of chronic diseases related to nutrition are increasing in some developing communities and even among poorer population strata. The UAE faces substantial challenges related to nutrition systems resulting to health problems. The WHO is working closely with the health authorities in the UAE to face problems associated with outbreaks of non-communicable diseases through the development of a national nutrition strategy that would contribute to the development of a building capacity program and increase of primary healthcare services.

In this context, Dr. Haifa Maadi, Director of Nutrition Conservation and Promotion Programs in the WHO, stressed the close relationships between infectious diseases and absence of healthy lifestyles particularly nutritional ones. She said: “The high proportion of non-communicable diseases mainly goes back to the high rate of obesity and less physical activities that lead to unhealthy nutrition habits and patterns. Hence, the importance of the national strategy would help the UAE to develop radical solutions for nutritional challenges such as the promotion of healthy foods and physical activities”.

Meanwhile, Dr. Mahmood Fikri, Executive Director for Health Policies at the Ministry of Health, stressed that the ministry put several suggested programs for implementing the strategy and stressed on the importance of forming an executive committee to follow up the implemented procedures.

In addition, Dr. Ayoub Al Jawalda, Nutrition Regional Advisor at the WHO’s Mediterranean Regional Office, lauded the cooperation of the UAE Ministry of Health with WHO in providing all the needed technical support and training in order to raise the technical standards of the strategy team.

The nutrition strategy was being prepared last October in the attendance of members from the Ministry of Education, universities and health authorities in Abu Dhabi and Dubai. Several frameworks and nutrition guidelines have been set to be applied from 2010-2015 and implemented with the participation of public and private sectors in the UAE.

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