Wednesday, December 08, 2021


Opinion: The importance of health literacy in Oman

In a country like Oman, which is on a stage of transition, the health infrastructure can be improved considerably and this would make the nation self sufficient in medical treatment for the citizens.

By Reena Abdulrahman

Thursday, October 21, 2021

It was on Tuesday October 19 that a private medical evacuation charter flight safely evacuated a seriously ill patient from Muscat to Ahmedabad in India. The patient, whose identity has been withheld on account of anonymity, is suffering from Motor Neurone Disease (MND), an uncommon condition that affects the brain and nerves, and the decision was taken to ensure him state-of-the-art treatment at Global Institute of Stem Cell Therapy & Research (GIOSTAR) Hospital and Health Care in Ahmedabad, which is known for such treatment.

Here the patient was so positive about the treatment and the family was highly supportive that the process was very smooth thus facilitating the airlifting using the chartered flight.

Here what makes news is not the evacuation but the positive attitude of the family and the patient himself, and also their willingness to learn more about it. Their family bonding was so strong and also they were medically aware that they wanted to try a solution to help improve the clinical condition of this man.

Since India has achieved progress in healthcare system over the last many decades, they preferred Giostar in Ahmedabad after studying its history in stemcell therapy. When their father was detected with this disease, they were totally ignorant of this disease and they had no idea about the possible treatments or the places that offered treatment.

But they studied more about it to find out a solution that ultimately took them to Giostar.
This incident points to two main aspects related to healthcare. One is on medical literacy. When a patient is detected with a particular disease, the family would be able to explore possible treatment when the healthcare experts in the respective country sensitize them and provide them the required information and other details.

Here the family was willing to learn and the doctors helped them more about the treatment. But in many cases this is not the scenario in many countries, especially the under-developed ones. If the school curriculum is framed in such a manner as to provide the basic medical literacy and also the details of the researches in the field of healthcare sector, it would help the people in handling the complicated scenario smoothly.

Another aspect is to improve the healthcare and medical facilities. In a country like Oman, which is on a stage of transition, the health infrastructure can be improved considerably and this would make the nation self sufficient in medical treatment for the citizens even in case of complicated diseases. It can even develop into a destination for modern healthcare facility.

This shifting of a critically ill patient for treatment abroad underscores the requirement of the improved healthcare facilities and the stronger research in this field.

Also, if we have a network of eminent medical advisors to help the people, since many new cases of different kinds of ‘unknown diseases’ are reported nowadays, it would be more beneficial for everyone. In such cases the ‘Google search’ alone would not be enough and we need a proper system in place to provide the correct information. The right of the citizens for the right medical information should be asserted.

According to a study, the people should be provided a ‘minimum medical knowledge’ (MMK) so that they would have the understanding on typical signs and/or risk factors of four relevant clinical conditions: myocardial infarction, stroke, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and HIV/AIDS. Some countries like Switzerland have made great progress in this regard.

Along with this, the family and the medical fraternity should be sensitized to be more empathetic towards the patients to make them more confident to overcome the situation. Also, this way the family could explore the possibility of the better treatment. Further if the doctors are also sensitized to treat the people in the villages and advance the medical facilities in the rural areas, it would further improve the scenario for sure.

Added to this, there should also be a system in place to monitor the private hospitals to minimize the ‘out-of-pocket expenditure’. If the government itself constitutes a corpus to take care of the needs of the patients who need critical healthcare, the humungous expenditure would not topple the balance of the families concerned.

Though the latest incident is a rare one, it should be an eye-opener to the world to handle the medical scenario more sensitively, as was seen in this particular case.