Oman too is mulling ‘sin tax’ on selected goods and beverages to control their consumption and the spread of NCDs which have risen sharply in the country over the last few years. Tobacco products, alcoholic beverages and energy drinks will likely attract an excise tax of 100 per cent, while that on fizzy drinks will be 50 per cent.
The region also suffers from some of the highest rates of NCD-related risk factors, such as physical inactivity, obesity, tobacco, and high salt, sugar and fat intake.
At a regional high-level policy dialogue held in Cairo, WHO regional director Dr Ahmed al Mandhari said, “NCDs and mental health disorders are now recognised as real threats to public health and sustainable development. Yet, the burden of these conditions continues to rise.”
“Millions of people still die prematurely from NCDs every year,” he said, adding, “Many more suffer from ill physical and mental health, debilitating them and affecting their families. We need to intensify actions on multiple fronts if we want to deliver on our commitments successfully. Looking at the NCDs figures globally and regionally is really frightening. We have to exert maximum efforts to combat them.”
The regional high-level policy dialogue was held in preparation for the third high-level meeting of UN General Assembly on the prevention and control of NCDs.
Dr Mandhari said that NCDs can only be controlled through national, regional as well as international efforts. “Only through very strong high political commitment we can succeed in fighting NCDs and reduce mortality rates related to them.”
As per the WHO-EMRO’s ‘Country cooperation strategy for WHO and Oman 2018-22’, the prevention and control of NCDs, mental health and substance abuse, and to establish and implement the Oman disability programme is on the agenda. Despite the healthcare advances in Oman, there are issues related to the prevalence of obesity, hypertension, anaemia and diabetes.
In the ‘Roadmap of WHO’s work in the Eastern Mediterranean Region 2017-21’, Dr M Fikri, the former WHO regional director for the Eastern Mediterranean had said, “Prevention and control of NCDs, mental health and substance abuse to reduce the burden and mortality due to these diseases is a priority.”
According to the roadmap, “NCDs continue to be associated with a high health and development burden, remaining the leading cause of death and life-long chronicity in the region, with 2.2mn related deaths every year. The figure is projected to increase to more than 3.8mn by 2030.”
The age standardised prevalence rate of overweight among adults was estimated at 46.8 per cent in the region, with a higher prevalence among women (50.1 per cent) compared to men (43.8 per cent).
Additionally, the average estimate for prevalence of obesity in the region is 19 per cent, with a higher prevalence among women (23.6 per cent) compared to men (14.6 per cent). Accordingly, more than 60 per cent of the adult population in the region is either overweight or obese.