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aACAyFamily doctors should play big role in disease prevention'.


Family physicians are the gatekeepers in disease prevention and promoting health awareness in the community, a senior health executive said here yesterday.

"World-wide, the focus is moving away from specialists back to family physicians," said Dr Ibtesam Al Bastaki, scientific chairperson of the International Family Physician Conference.

The conference was opened yesterday by Khalid Al Kamda, director-general of the Community Development Authority. The conference runs until Tuesday (February 18) at the Dubai International Convention Centre, and has attracted a host of experts who will speak on various lifestyle diseases plaguing the world and the region.

"Family medicine has an important role as it is cheaper for the patient, the patient gets quicker attention, with less waiting time, and there are fewer complaints," said Dr Ibtesam. She said primary care will also help reduce the burden on hospitals.

Unfortunately, the family physician is presently unable to play the role that is required in the health-care chain of services. "Conferences such as these will help family physicians serve patients better," said Dr Shaesta Mehta, consultant gastroentrologist at Tata Memorial Hospital, Mumbai, and chairperson of several sessions at the conference on asthma, food allergies and cardiovascular diseases.

She said family physicians can provide the physical and psychological after-care many chronic disease patients need.

The doctor said family physicians can provide early referral and play an important part in national screening and vaccination programmes. "Hepatitis B vaccination has suffered greatly [in India]," said the doctor. "Family physicians need to be more proactive," she said.

Dr Ibtesam said metabolic syndrome is growing rapidly world-wide and is also a major concern here in the region and the UAE.

She said cardiovascular disease, diabetes, hypertension and respiratory disease will be addressed at the conference by experts.

Metabolic syndrome is a group of risk factors for heart disease and other health problems, such as diabetes and stroke.

Metabolic is the biochemical processes involved in the body's normal functioning. According to doctors, risk factors are unhealthy habits that increase your chance of developing a disease.

Dr Ibtesam, however, said family physicians cannot tackle these disease by themselves. "The community also has to work on it," she said, asking people to take better care of themselves.

Dr Mehta added that cancer is also a lifestyle disease in a way. "The family physician can better educate the families on how to alter their lifestyle and lead healthier lives," she said.

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Publication:Gulf News (United Arab Emirates)
Date:Feb 17, 2014
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