(MENAFN - Arab News) A senior health official said on Tuesday that women's health should be prioritized both by public and private healthcare providers in the Kingdom.
Dr. Tawfiq bin Ahmed Khoja, director-general of the executive board of the GCC Health Ministers Council, said educating women on health should be top of the agenda since they account for a substantial part of the country's population.
Khoja was speaking to Arab News on the sidelines of the 4th SMCH Symposium on Women Health inaugurated at the Intercontinental Hotel in Riyadh on Tuesday.
The conference was organized by the Specialized Medical Center Hospital in Riyadh.
"Obesity and change in women's lifestyle is causing major concern in the GCC region," Khoja said, adding there is an urgent need for comprehensive health awareness programs among women in the Kingdom and the Gulf region.
He said diabetes and smoking are two major problems that worry the health authorities.
"Women should know the hazards of smoking which could not only harm them but also harm passive smokers," the director general said.
He also emphasized the need for adolescent programs for women that should include finding out their nutrition status and whether they are taking timely tests for breast cancer, glucose levels and hypertension. He also commended King Saud University for setting up a chair for women's health.
The Ministry of Health has been doing a good job in looking after women's health and the conference is another good example of private sector participation facilitated by the government department, he added.
SMCH Chief Executive Officer Dr. Khalid Al-Sebaiay said his hospital had organized the symposium to coincide with the World Health Organization program that had devoted the month of March to women's health.
He said the two-day conference would highlight the health problems of women such as breast cancer, osteoporosis, anemia, skin and cosmetic problems and other women-related diseases.
"We have brought in international experts to enlighten concerned medics and paramedics on the latest advances made in their respective fields," he added.
Lina El-Kibbi, chairperson of the symposium, said the conference aims to discuss the latest developments in the different aspects of women's health and to raise the level of awareness among community doctors to tackle various health issues regarding women.
"We want primary healthcare doctors to identify health problems in women and refer them."
Giving an overview of women's health in the Kingdom, Executive Director of the Princess Nora Bint Abdullah Women's Health Research Chair at King Saud University Dr. Aljohara Al-Quiaz said Saudi women are potentially more likely to develop cardiovascular diseases and diabetes, as more of them are obese compared to Saudi men. "Specific steps must be directed toward the promotion of women's health as a primary priority in the Kingdom," Al-Quiaz noted.
Dr. Mohammed El-Naghy, consultant in medical oncology at National Guard Hospital, said according to Saudi Cancer Registry data published in 2007, incidences of cancer have doubled over 10 years in Saudi men and women, yet they are lower than Western countries. "The most invasive cancer among Saudi women is breast cancer, representing 26 percent of all cancer cases in 2007, followed by thyroid cancer and then colo-rectal cancer," the oncologist said.
Basmah Alwahhabi, endocrine consultant at Riyadh Military Hospital, said many people suffer from vitamin D deficiency (VDD) worldwide. "It has been reported that 80 percent of Saudi women suffer from vitamin D deficiency," she said.
VDD is not something which should be ignored, she said.
"The impact of VDD on general health is probably underestimated. Apart from the common skeletal symptoms of VDD, it has been linked to a list of diseases including cardiovascular diseases, cancer, weak memory and general weakness."