Top health concerns of Sharjah residents? Obesity and chronic diseases

Sharjah residents prefer social media for awareness campaigns

Flag Island in Sharjah Emirate. Shurooq development.

SHARJAH 20 April 2017: Obesity and chronic diseases are among the most worrying health concerns for residents of Sharjah, according to a survey by the Health Promotion Department of the Supreme Council of Family Affairs.

The survey aimed at measuring awareness levels among locals and residents in the Emirate, especially in terms of major health concerns. The study revealed residents’ desire to raise awareness of these conditions to achieve higher prevention levels.

“The study showed that 85 per cent of the target sample felt concerned about diseases such as diabetes, hypertension, heart disease and cancer,” said Eman Rashid Saif, Director of Health Promotion Department.

“Obesity and nutrition ranked second (84 per cent) in the list of concerns, with majority of respondents citing healthy diet and regular exercise as means for better health. The study also revealed a strong desire by Sharjah residents to see more awareness efforts around these issues.”

Social Media Key

The Director of the Health Education Department explained that 92 per cent of survey respondents preferred to receive health-related information and awareness messages through various social media channels, other media outlets ranked second (55 per cent), highlighting the large impact and reach of these forms of media on members of society, and the importance of focusing on pushing health awareness programs through these channels to reach the audience.

The study showed that Instagram is the most preferred platform to receive awareness messages and communicate through, followed by applications such as Twitter, WhatsApp, Snapchat and YouTube, among other websites.

Saif concluded, through the answers of participants about their favorite communication tools, that society has become more receptive to receiving information through audiovisual communications, as media outlets were divided into visual, audio and written categories, and participants were more inclined towards visual media.

Daily Habits & Lifestyle

Saif said that the survey proposed 10 internationally recommended daily behaviors, associated with a healthy lifestyle, and connected to related non-epidemic, chronic diseases, such as diabetes, heart diseases and cancer. Some of the most recommended behaviors included:

  • Quitting smoking
  • Following a healthy high-fiber, low-fat diet that is rich in fruits and vegetables
  • Maintaining a healthy weight
  • Exercising
  • Sun-protection
  • Getting vaccinated for epidemic diseases, and
  • Avoiding life-threatening behaviors such as engaging in drugs or alcohol

Saif noted that Sharjah enjoys many facilities that encourage physical activity in many areas around the emirate, as 52 per cent of survey respondents engage in physical activity 1-3 times a week in these offered facilities.

With regards to the department’s activities to raise awareness among members of society and its consistency, Saif said that since 2012, the department launched its “Employee Health” campaign, focused on topics related to the health of employees, and their nutrition and health-related daily practices, and their survey responses confirmed adopting relatively good behaviors that were put forward during the campaign.

She added that, in 2009, the department launched a continuous program to raise awareness about conscious consumer culture. The program focused on raising awareness about food purchasing and consumption, and included intensive workshops carried out across different institutions and to the public, about the importance of reading the food labels on products and properly analyzing and understanding the displayed information. It was found that 32 per cent of participants confirmed, in their responses, that they read the food labels on food products.

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Recommendations

The study concluded that the demand of society in Sharjah comes in line with international recommendations to focus on programs that promoted the adoption of a healthy lifestyle, represented in good nutrition and physical activity to maintain a healthy weight, preventing non-epidemic diseases that have been on the rise over the past few years, due to the promotion of fast food, high-fat and high-calorie products, and leading stressful, busy lifestyles, in addition to surfing social media, all of which are reasons leading to a lesser engagement in physical activity and exercise.

Eman Rashid Saif explained that the study has put forwarded several recommendations which will be adopted by the department in its future programs, and these include: Focusing on introducing awareness programs related to the emergence of chronic, non-epidemic diseases, promoting the adoption of healthy behaviors across society through providing a supportive environment for a healthy lifestyle, and creating and strengthening awareness through the media to attract members of society to follow through, in addition to promoting comprehensive awareness campaign strategies and activating these through institutional partnerships.

Study Sample

Eman noted that a random sample of 778 men and women of the audience segment to which the department offers its services, were selected to participate in the study. The sample included Arabic-speaking nationals and residents of the emirate of Sharjah. These were approached at shopping malls, patient waiting areas at large hospitals across the emirate, the department’s official social media accounts and the mailing list for employees in the government sector in Sharjah, in addition to public social activities, with an error margin of no more than 5 per cent.

Age groups were divided into 5 categories: 15-18, 19-24, 25-35, 36-45 and 46+. 42 per cent of participants fell under the age group of 25-35 years old; and 29 per cent fell under the age group of 35-45; while the rest fell under other age categories. 72 per cent of participants were employees, given the age group to which they belong. 57 per cent of participants were men while 43 per cent were women.

By Angel Chan