JEDDAH – Though the economic benefits of instilling healthcare awareness "are difficult to assess," identifying emergency health problems at an early, during the reversible stage, adhering to self-care practices, understanding the nature of the illness and its treatment, and making the necessary changes to health habits that would eventually redound to the person’s well-being are definitely rewarding not just health-wise but materially too.
In an interview with the Saudi Gazette, Dr. Wail Al-Qasim, General Manager, Saudi Arabia, Merck Sharp & Dohme (MSD), said, citing the 2003 International Diabetes Federation report, there is evidence to suggest that self-management of diabetes education may be cost-effective. Training in diabetes self-management reduces medical costs for diabetes care in developing countries in the short term, therefore it is economically gainful. Because the costs of education programs are generally low, the intervention may be cost-effective, he added.
He said earlier that in Saudi Arabia, more than SR12 billion are spent every year on diabetes alone. On the global scale, he noted that healthcare expenditure on type 2 diabetics is expected to increase from $376 billion in 2010, to $490 billion in 2030. Developed countries spend from 2.5 to 15 percent of their annual healthcare budget on diabetes.
However, he noted that evaluating the effectiveness of health education is challenging because of the difficulty of separating out its effect from that of other interventions.
Training patients to better manage their disease is also feasible because of its low technical complexity, low capital requirements, and cultural acceptability. "Thus, education should be a high-priority intervention for all countries in all diseases," Al-Qasim asserted.
Commenting on MSD Saudi Arabia’s support for the ongoing annual region-wide initiative "EMRO Vaccination Week" launched by the World Health Organization Regional Office for the Eastern Mediterranean and partners, Al-Qasim said "prevention through vaccination has been recognized for many years, and discovery continues for innovative vaccines to help protect human health worldwide against existing and emerging disease Vaccination against a range of preventable and life-threatening diseases is an important form of health protection that should be accessible to everyone worldwide."
Since vaccines help boost the body’s immune system to prevent infectious disease, unlike medicines treat disease, he said "in this sense a vaccination for rotavirus for example can prevent unnecessary suffering for a young child and hospitalization."
Al-Qasim moreover said that while it is impossible to place a value on health, it is possible to estimate the value of the impact of vaccinations on societies. In that regard vaccines have made a profound impact in improving public health and have helped to reduce the burden of vaccine-preventable diseases globally. Vaccines have helped to prevent more than 30 common infectious diseases and helped avert long-term disability and an estimated 2.5 million deaths a year."
When enough people are immunized against a disease, disease transmission is reduced, and even those who are not vaccinated can be indirectly protected by herd immunity, he pointed out. Unvaccinated people become protected by diseases if a significant number in a community are vaccinated, as it is more difficult for a disease to pass between people. Essentially the cost-effectiveness of vaccination helps contribute to a healthy economy." He emphasized that importance of educating the public, noting that physicians and other healthcare providers play a integral role in this. "Unfortunately although there is a mandatory list of vaccinations some do not follow it," he lamented.
Moreover, Al-Qasim noted that most believe that vaccinations are limited to those taken at young age not recognizing that there are vaccinations for adults which can protect them from potentially harmful diseases. – SG