(MENAFN - Muscat Daily) Oman has allocated US3.38bn (RO1.29bn) in its 2014 healthcare budget, more than double the US1.3bn (RO500mn) spending in 2013, in part to sharpen its focus on combating non-communicable diseases, such as diabetes, hypertension and obesity.
According to the Oxford Business Group's country report, a two-pronged approach to tackle the rise of lifestyle diseases in Oman and broaden the range of medical facilities available locally has put the country's healthcare services on course for rapid growth.
It stated that Oman has significantly increased state spending on healthcare in recent years, although it has also encouraged the private sector to take on a greater role, particularly in developing specialised facilities and preventive treatments. The efforts have been strengthened by a shift in attitude among Omanis, who are now opting, in growing numbers, to use private medical services that were once almost exclusively the domain of expatriates.
The country will also benefit from two new, dedicated health hubs, which are set to significantly increase hospital bed numbers and expand the range of treatments available. One of the centres, which is expected to open in Muscat around 2020, will make available five new hospitals, alongside a range of additional facilities. A second initiative - the US1bn (RO384) International Medical City - is being developed in Salalah by the Apex Medical Group.'
It stated that a growing number of Omanis are moving towards private medical services, according to a report issued by the Ministry of Health in mid-April. Omanis represented almost half (46.8 per cent) of the 45,654 patients treated in the country's 11 private hospitals and medical facilites in 2012, even though they were eligible for care at government-funded centres.'
''The number of Omanis being treated abroad is decreasing because of the increasing availability of high-end, specialised care available locally through private healthcare providers,'' John Clarke, the director of Muscat Private Hospital, was quoted in the report as saying.
''This, coupled with the need for follow-up care and patients' desire for a more personalised experience, has increased the number of Omani patients at this hospital around 13 per cent from 2013 to this year.''
The range of treatments available in both private and state-run centres is also rising, enabling more Omanis needing specialised medical care to undergo treatment in their home country.
Tackling non-communicable diseases through treatment and prevention is seen as an area ripe for private sector investment. Like many countries in the Gulf region, Oman has witnessed a sharp rise in lifestyle diseases, especially diabetes, which affected around 14 per cent of the population in 2013 according to projections from the International Diabetes Federation (IDF) with 7,000 new cases registered every year.'
Obesity, which is known to contribute to a number of health issues, is also a growing problem. A recent study by Sultan Qaboos University found that at least 30 per cent of Omanis were overweight, with 20 per cent now classified as obese.'
The report said there was an increasing incidence of excessive weight gain among younger age groups, linked to a lack of exercise and unhealthy eating patterns.
The report urged the authorities to take account of what it described as a new epidemic by rethinking its national health plan for the