(MENAFN - Arab News) Senior officials of the Ministry of Health (MOH) briefed a visiting group of US journalists in Riyadh yesterday on the Kingdom's achievements in health care.
Senior journalists from the United States are currently on a two-week tour to the Kingdom on the Gatekeepers Editor trip organized by the US-based International Reporting Project (IRP).
The team of 11 senior editors included five women.
On behalf of the Saudi side, Deputy Health Minister for Planning and Development Dr. Mohammed Al-Khoshaim and Undersecretary to the Ministry of Health for Public Health Dr. Ziad Al-Memish were present to brief the visiting reporters on the services rendered by the Health Ministry.
The International Reporting Project is designed to educate US journalists about global issues and to increase and improve the coverage of international topics in the US news media. It does so through a variety of fellowships, conferences, seminars, fact-finding visits and publications to meet the needs of all levels of journalists: early-career, mid-career and senior journalists.
The program is based in Washington at The Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS) of Johns Hopkins University. Journalists involved in the International Reporting Project have access to some of the world's leading specialists in international issues at SAIS and other institutions.
Twice a year up to 12 US "gatekeeper" editors are awarded fellowships to travel as a group on an intensive fact-finding visit to a single important country.
Since 2000, visits for gatekeepers have been organized to Indonesia, Brazil, South Africa, Lebanon/Syria, India, Egypt, Nigeria, Korea, Uganda, Turkey and Kenya. Gatekeepers are defined as journalists in supervisory positions at any type of media who help determine what news items will be selected for publication or broadcast.
Addressing the journalists, Al-Khoshaim told them that the Ministry of Health had planned out a comprehensive health care program for the next 10 years.
Describing the program as a national project, the deputy minister outlined the challenges faced by the health authorities in extending its services to every nook and corner of the Kingdom. He pointed out that the increasing incidence of non-communicable diseases has been a major concern for the ministry. However, he said preventive and curative measures are being taken to tackle such cases. He told them about the efforts made by the ministry in the prevention, awareness, education and treatment services provided to citizens and residents.
In addition to the three specialized hospitals for eye care, there are 249 hospitals with 34,370 beds. There are 2,094 primary health centers as well as nine cardiac centers for heart surgery.
This year, Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah has allocated SR 16 billion for the health care sector.
Al-Memish outlined the preventive measures undertaken by the ministry to look after the health of Haj and Umrah pilgrims who come to the holy cities of Makkah and Madinah during the pilgrimage season. He also told them about the Kingdom's cooperation with the US Centers for Disease Control in preventing the spread of infectious diseases in the holy cities.
Responding to the presentations made by senior health officials, the visiting journalists appreciated the efforts made by the Kingdom to offer the best health care services to both citizens and residents in the Kingdom. The editors pointed out the Kingdom's health care experience during the Haj season could be shared with the organizers of the forthcoming Olympic Games to be held in London.
US Ambassador James B. Smith and his wife Dr. Janet Breslin hosted a reception in honor of the visiting group at Quincy House in Riyadh on Monday.