Qatar is placing significant focus on preventative health care as part of its new five-year plan for the sector, with efforts to improve the general health of the population and reduce the cost of service provision set to offer increased opportunities for private sector investment.
Unveiled on March 24, the National Health Strategy 2018-22 sets out a series of measures aimed at reversing the rise of non-communicable diseases, including encouraging greater physical activity and promoting healthy diet and lifestyle choices.
This sharpened focus on prevention has been codified in the policy’s targets, which include achieving a 15% reduction in hospital admissions for primary care conditions, such as hypertension, asthma and diabetes.
Obesity is another issue identified as a key area of concern. Almost three-quarters of Qatari adults are classified as either overweight or obese, while about 44% engage in low levels of physical activity.
By encouraging a more active lifestyle through education programmes targeting children, adolescents and adults, the strategy has targeted a 5% decrease in obesity and a 15% reduction in premature death through cardiovascular diseases, cancer, diabetes and respiratory illnesses by 2022.
The need to reduce the incidence of such non-communicable diseases among the local population is pressing, as they are responsible for almost 69% of deaths in the country.
Private investment to help sector expansion
In addition to bolstering preventative measures, the new policy paper also calls for greater private sector involvement in the health care industry.
At present, 89.5% of expenditure in the sector is undertaken by the government, one of the highest rates in the region, with officials targeting a 25% increase in private sector market share by 2022.
Some industry figures argue that greater private investment could help increase capital in the sector while easing the state’s burden, with the development of smaller medical and wellness facilities seen as an area of potential growth.
For its part, the government’s strategy identifies the provision of health care services as a significant area of opportunity for private sector involvement, with expansion in the sector also set to drive demand for medical supplies, devices and equipment.
This has recently been observed in the public sector: Qatar’s state-funded Primary Health Care Corporation reported in April that it had seen an increase in the number of medical devices used at its 23 centres. It forecasts that this will rise in demand as the number of health facilities it operates expands, with one scheduled to open in Al Wajba in Doha and another in Muaither in the municipality of Al Rayyan in May.
Sheikh Jassim Mohamed Hamad Al Thani, vice chairman of Mohamed Bin Hamad Holding, a holding company with a diverse portfolio, including health care facilities, told OBG, that the development of new medical facilities should stimulate expansion in related sub-sectors.
“This growth is creating significant opportunity for investment in associated areas, including the manufacturing of consumables and pharmaceuticals,” he told OBG.
Commercial partnerships could boost local workforce
However, as the health care sector grows, increased pressure could be placed on the availability of domestic personnel to help meet demand.
At present, more than 90% of all nursing staff in the country are expatriates, while 69% of all doctors serving in the public and private sectors also come from abroad.