Closer health cooperation ‘vital’ for Muslim countries
Muslim countries should forge closer health ties to attract scientists, reduce costs of purchasing medicines and tackle the growing threat of infectious diseases, said Health Minister Khalid A. Al-Falih on Thursday.
Al-Falih was speaking at the two-day Organization of Islamic Cooperation’s (OIC) 5th Islamic Conference of Health Ministers, which ended in Istanbul on Thursday. The conference, which is held every two years, reviewed the status of the OIC Strategic Health Program of Action 2014 to 2023.
Al-Falih said that if Muslim countries focus on setting up the right research bodies, they can attract talented and seasoned scientists to help address their health challenges, according to reports.
He said that the huge health care needs of Muslim countries makes it possible to develop a joint purchasing strategy that would counter the monopoly held by some firms in the pharmaceutical industry, protect their citizens from price increases and achieve major savings by buying items at fair prices.
He also called for further coordination to fight infectious diseases. Saudi Arabia and Indonesia have joined the Global Health Security Agenda, which focuses on prevention, early detection and rapid response. Muslim countries should join this initiative, he said.
Al-Falih highlighted Saudi Arabia’s role in providing pilgrims with quality health care, including prevention, ambulatory and primary care services, in addition to advanced tertiary care at the holy sites.
“We have to work together to maintain a high level of health care during the Haj season and guard against the outbreak of epidemics and infections which not only endanger pilgrims but also pose a threat to their countries and the world at large,” he was quoted as saying.
He said the Saudi Health Ministry has established the fully equipped Global Center for Mass Gathering Medicine and urged all Muslims countries to make contact with it. In addition, he praised the coordination efforts of Haj health missions, and called on OIC nations to further develop Haj health training and education, and ensure compliance with medical and immunization requirements.
Al-Falih said that Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Salman has invited the OIC to hold its sixth conference in the Kingdom. “The Saudi leadership and people are keen to host this great meeting on the land of Saudi Arabia, close to the Holy Mosque.”
He said it would be “an opportunity to highlight the importance it attaches to cooperation among our countries that share a timeless faith, a noble message and a common destiny.” The conference participants thanked King Salman for the invitation.
The conference participants addressed several topics including the fight against cancer, emergency preparedness and response, technology addiction, and the role of non-governmental organizations in the implementation of the OIC Strategic Health Program of Action. The conference also discussed health-related sustainable development goals in the OIC member states.
The Saudi delegation included Deputy Health Minister for Public Health Abdulaziz ibn Abdullah ibn Saeed, Assistant Deputy Minister for Primary Healthcare Hisham ibn Ibrahim Al-Khashan, and the Director-General of Infectious Disease Control Raafat ibn Faisal Al-Hakim.