The Health Promotion Department organizes the My Health 7th Regional Conference

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Under the patronage and with the attendance of Her Highness Sheikha Jawaher Bint Mohammed Al Qasimi, Wife of His Highness the Ruler of Sharjah and Chairperson of the Supreme Council for Family Affairs in Sharjah, the activities of the My Health 7th Regional Conference were launched today by the Health Promotion Department at the Supreme Council for Family Affairs in Sharjah.

The 7th edition of the conference, which is being held under the theme of “Talk, Listen, Change,” is organized in cooperation with the World Health Organization and the Ministry of Health and Prevention, and with a strategic partnership with both the University of Sharjah and the Arab German Young Academy of sciences and humanities (AGYA). The conference focuses on the theme of nutrition as a key factor in preventing chronic diseases, and will include the participation of more than 32 experts and representatives from various countries in the Middle East Region, as well as 20 specialists and officials from the health sectors in the UAE, and 25 spokespersons that will present educational sessions. The conference will aim to target more than 2,000 people over its 3 days.

HE Dr Ahmed Selim Al-Mandhari, Regional Director of the WHO Regional Office for the Eastern Mediterranean (WHO/EMRO), praised the initiative of the emirate of Sharjah, which is represented by the Health Promotion Department at the Supreme Council for Family Affairs in Sharjah, and is held under the patronage of Her Highness Sheikha Jawaher Bint Mohammed Al Qasimi, Wife of His Highness the Ruler of Sharjah and Chairperson of the Supreme Council for Family Affairs in Sharjah. He stated that this initiative aims to utilize the My Health conference in order to highlight the theme of nutrition as a key factor in preventing chronic diseases among the youth demographic, which is in line with the efforts of the World Health Organization.

Al-Mandhari stated that the Middle East region is experiencing many nutritional changes that have contributed to the high rates of obesity in the area. He called on the countries of the region to adopt more advanced healthy food policies, and stressed the importance of promoting nutrition as it is considered a key factor in achieving the sustainable development goals of this region of the world. He also urged the countries of the region to actively coordinate among themselves to implement the “United Nations Decade of Action on Nutrition” program, and to identify the best solutions and practices to address the problem of obesity.

Dr Ahmed Selim Al-Mandhari pointed out that the World Health Organization’s Regional Meeting, which took place yesterday in Sharjah amidst a large local and global presence, was held with the aim of sharing policies, programs and plans that help address the problem of obesity in the region.

HE Iman Rashid Saif, Director of the Health Promotion Department at the Supreme Council for Family Affairs in Sharjah, stated that the My Health conference is one of the results of the wise vision and the directives of His Highness Dr. Sheikh Sultan bin Mohammed Al Qasimi, Supreme Council Member and Ruler of Sharjah; and Her Highness Sheikha Jawaher Bint Mohammed Al Qasimi, Wife of His Highness the Ruler of Sharjah and Chairperson of the Supreme Council for Family Affairs, who made human investment a priority and placed the achievement of sustainable health at the top of the emirate’s social, economic and developmental agenda, since it is considered a cornerstone that ensures the happiness of the country’s citizens.

Saif then expressed her thanks and appreciation to Her Highness Sheikha Jawaher Bint Mohammed Al Qasimi for her support to this event. She added that Her Highness has been keen to empower the Health Promotion Department to achieve its strategic vision that aims to improve the health-related behaviours of all members of society in Sharjah.

Saif highlighted the importance of the “Sharjah Declaration Against Obesity” that was signed during the first day of the conference by the countries that participated in the World Health Organization’s Regional Meeting. She added that the declaration came as a collective pledge to work on doubling efforts to combat obesity in the region, as well as raise awareness on the dangers of this issue while also focusing on the segment of children and youth.

HE Dr Ayoub Al-Jawaldeh, Regional Nutrition Adviser at the WHO Regional Office for the Eastern Mediterranean (WHO EMRO), stated that the region is experiencing increasing obesity rates, resulting from physical inactivity, unhealthy diets and other factors, which highlights the need for more advanced health food policies across the region. He pointed out that existing evidence has revealed that there is a relationship between food insecurity, poverty, social and health inequalities, food systems and obesity, in addition to the increase in economic and social factors that lead to obesity in countries with middle- and high-income levels.

HE Dr Ayoub Al-Jawaldeh stressed the need for the region’s countries to increase their focus on assessing their current situation in terms of obesity, identify their most important challenges, and then form strategic and practical implementation plans. He pointed out that 2.5 million people in the Middle East region die from non-communicable diseases each year, which is equal to 62 % of all deaths in the region.

Al-Jawaldeh stated that half of the region’s adult women (51%) and more than two in five men (43.8%) were overweight or obese, according to the available statistics. He added that the rate of children that were overweight or obese were high – higher than the global average of 7% – and in some countries more than 15% of children were affected. He remarked that in many countries of the region, more than half of adolescents are overweight or obese.

Al-Jawaldeh called on the countries of the region to double their efforts and implement several national plans and strategies to reduce child obesity through cross-sectoral policies. He added that some of the most prominent policies include the policy of restricting certain marketing practices used to market unhealthy foods to children, the policy of integrating healthy foods into foods served in schools, and the policy of taxing sugar-sweetened beverages.

HE Dr. Hamid Majul Al Nuaimi, Director of the University of Sharjah, praised the topics and the high standards of the 7th My Health Conference and the quality of its results. He added that the conference’s success is due to the efforts of the Health Promotion Department, which works within the modern standards set by the Supreme Council for Family Affairs in Sharjah. He also expressed his thanks to Her Highness Sheikha Jawaher Bint Mohammed Al Qasimi, Wife of His Highness the Ruler of Sharjah and Chairperson of the Supreme Council for Family Affairs in Sharjah, for the social achievements achieved by the Supreme Council for Family Affairs in Sharjah.

The My Health conference began today with a plenary session entitled “Global, regional and national burden of obesity,” which discussed the WHO Global and regional strategies that address the double burden of malnutrition and the diet-related risk factors for Non-Communicable Diseases. The session also reviewed global initiatives in obesity prevention, approaches in developing policies on food marketing to children, and the national action plan on obesity prevention in the UAE.

The second session of the day examined the UN experience on restrictions in marketing foods to children, the standardization of food composition tables in the Middle East Region, and the experience of obesity prevention in Europe and the lessons learned. The session also discussed recent dieting styles, dietary chemoprevention against cancer, the complications and coping strategies of obesity, and nutrition and mental health.

The last day of the conference will begin with a Youth Plenary Session entitled “Bright Future,” which will review the causes behind the obesity pandemic among youths across different environments such as the home, school, university and public places, in order to find solutions that reduce obesity rates and promote the adoption of a healthy lifestyle. The session aims to review and highlight the current causes of obesity among youths in order to find possible strategies that support the health of this age group and those affected by obesity specifically, as well as raise the level of awareness on obesity and its impact on the health of youths and society in general. The session, which will be hosted by the University of Sharjah at the Alrazi Theatre located at the College of Medicine and Health Sciences, will include the participation of 4 young people who will be on stage along with the moderator of the session, Dr Amal Aljawder, a Family Physician from the Kingdom of Bahrain; in addition to a Representative of the World Health Organization (WHO), a Representative of the United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF), and a number of specialists.

The last session of the day will discuss the knowledge and attitudes towards energy drinks among young athletes in the UAE, and the role of probiotics in the prevention of diabetes, as well as the role of breastfeeding in promoting maternal and child health. The session will also discuss a physical exercise recipe for children and youth, the UAE examples of implementing a mass media campaign, and nutrition myths and facts.

The conference will conclude with a discussion on how to prevent obesity complications, the psychological effects of obesity on children, and the topic of obesity and skin diseases among youths, in addition to natural beauty secrets for skin care.

The My Health 7th Regional Conference is considered one of the most influential community conferences, which acts as a link between doctors and specialists from various local and international sectors, as well as parents and interested individuals from the community. The conference is also considered a platform for discussing the most important health topics and issues of our time, and the focus of the current edition of the event is on the theme of obesity, which is a disease that is related to our modern lifestyle habits and behaviours.

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