The Qatar Public Health Strategy will operate under the overarching National Health Strategy 2017-2022, one of eight sector strategies that make up the National Development Strategy 2017-2022 for Qatar. Where practicable, the 16 Health Areas and 4 Strategic Enablers initiatives within the Public Health Strategy will align with and subsequently achieve a portion of the key targets and outcomes of the National Health Strategy.
To ensure that this takes place, initiatives will go through an approval process and be regularly monitored by the relevant governance committees tasked with successfully delivering the Qatar Public Health Strategy 2017-2022.
Underpinning the National Health Strategy 2017-2022 are three main aims – Better Health, Better Care and Better Value. The Qatar Public Health Strategy 2017-2022 connects closely with the Better Health dimension, emphasizing that the health of the population is everyone’s responsibility and aims to make people healthier by enhancing health promotion and the prevention of disease.
Qatar’s population faces specific health issues that affect the extent to which many people can enjoy their lives in this wonderful country. Obesity, diabetes, heart disease and respiratory conditions are all on the rise within our population. The good news is that these prominent diseases are all largely preventable as they are often a direct result of unhealthy lifestyle habits.
These lifestyle diseases threaten to reduce our quality of life unless we work together to reverse the trend. It is a relatively simple task to identify what needs to change in order to improve health. The challenge, however, comes in laying the foundations that change the way people behave.
The scientific evidence is unquestionable – if you consume a healthy, balanced diet, exercise regularly, and abstain from smoking, you are far more likely to live a long healthy life, free of chronic disease, than if you regularly make unhealthy choices.
We are realistic about the scale of the challenge that faces us; indeed it would be easy to be overwhelmed. But unless we act now the future for our children, and indeed their children, will be one where chronic disease is commonplace. The burden of non-communicable diseases is now so great not only in Qatar but in many countries around the world, that there is a belief that for the first time in history our children will have a shorter lifespan than their parents.
We have a vision of where we want be – of what a healthy Qatar looks like. To achieve this vision we need individuals, families, employers, schools and government to all play their part and take responsibility for developing a healthier society.
Maintaining and improving the health of our population against a backdrop where non-communicable and lifestyle diseases are on the rise and the threat of communicable diseases is both changing in nature and ever present represents a significant challenge.
To meet this objective we must work together across government to identify, agree and respond to risks and threats to the population’s health. Whilst government has a significant role to play in improving health and wellbeing and preventing ill-health it is also the commitment of each and every individual to take responsibility for their own health, and that of their families, that will help deliver improvements. A central pillar of this strategy is therefore to engage and empower individuals and communities to address their health risks. This recognizes that individuals, together with their families, friends, communities, religious organizations, sports clubs, employers, the media and many others can play a significant role, particularly in tackling like diabetes, asthma, cardiovascular disease and mental health disorders.
Sustained investment in public health makes sense. It yields significant population benefits and reduces downstream care costs associated with managing people when they get ill. It is in the nation’s interest to invest effectively in public health.
I would like to extend my thanks to the National Preventive Health Committee and the National Public Health Steering Committee for their insight, passion and drive in supporting the development of the first Public Health Strategy. I would also like to thank the many and diverse individuals and organizations that took part in stakeholder events, meetings and interviews. I am encouraged by the enthusiasm and ideas that were generated during this process.
This Public Health Strategy could not have been developed without this contribution which represents a genuine desire across the nation to improve public health and wellbeing. Successfully implementing the strategy will improve the capacity and capability of our public health system, support individuals and families to take better care of their health and ultimately lead to a healthier and more prosperous nation.
The strategy sets a vision for “a comprehensive, dynamic and collaborative health system, working together to improve the health and prosperity of Qatar”, therefore providing a shared focus for the whole nation to drive torward improved public health.
The strategy sets a particular focus on improving the capacity and capability of the public health system because it ensures programs, activities and interventions are forward-looking, prioritized, evidence-based, continuously improving, effective and efficient. Improving the system will be no easy task. It will rely on strengthening four enablers which have been informed by international best practice: community engagement and empowerment; data driven intelligence; workforce and system capability; and leadership, regulation and accountability.
To ensure system improvement and change, the strategy has 14 strategic goals with 42 separate initiatives each of which have initial plans and key performance indicators to allow progress to be measured and monitored.
The strategy also addresses the range of key public health issues facing the nation. These issues can often be complex and rely on the expertise, will and drive of many different individuals and organizations. Monitoring and measuring progress against the 63 objectives, across 16 key areas, will also take place throughout implementation.
The Ministry of Public Health is already taking a number of steps to ensure strong implementation of the strategy: it has refreshed the national Public Health Committee; is establishing a Public Health Strategy Implementation Steering Committee; is ensuring the Business Plan for 2017 focuses on strategy implementation; is reviewing the structure of the MOPH Public Health Department to ensure it is shaped to support strategy implementation; and is establishing project management arrangements.
In addition, we will review the strategy every 2 years to measure progress, ensure it remains valid and is adjusted if necessary. The strength of any strategy is that it allows for changed circumstances.
I strongly encourage every individual and organization who has input to the strategy, and will be involved in its implementation, to consider what they can do individually and with others to contribute to improving the health and wellbeing of the nation.