(MENAFN - Arab News) Arab countries are spending between 40 and 50 percent of their health budgets on treating largely avoidable chronic diseases of lifestyle. This is placing a great burden on their respective economies, said Minister of Health Dr. Abdullah Al-Rabeeah.
Speaking on the sidelines of the third Arab Economic and Social Development Summit, which concluded Tuesday, Al-Rabeeah added that his ministry's health care council is tackling the problem by proposing the formation of a national commission consisting of relevant ministries to develop a long-term plan to address this issue.
The aim is to raise awareness of these diseases, promote healthy lifestyles and ensure better food quality.
He said the incidence of chronic diseases is increasing by an alarming 2 to 3 percent. The World Health Organization (WHO) has said this is one of the main challenges facing Arab countries.
"In order to address or at least reduce chronic diseases, we need to raise awareness of the dangers of these diseases in the community.
Noncommunicable diseases (NCDs) pose a significant economic burden on the countries of the world in general and Arab countries in particular."
The list includes diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, obesity and cancerous tumors.
He said Arab health ministers recently adopted the recommendations of the Riyadh conference to address NCDs and promote healthy lifestyles. The Council of Arab Ministers of Health is currently developing a mechanism to ensure there is cooperation to tackle the problem.
Al-Rabeeah said the main reasons for the growing rate of NCDs can be attributed to eating junk food, smoking, lack of physical activity and other poor lifestyle choices.
Al-Rabeeah praised the Arab health ministers for finding common ground on the problem. He thanked Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah for his support for the summit.