Browsing 'health' News

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Qatar residents – especially women – are among the most sedentary in the world, a new Stanford University study has found.

The report, published in international science journal Nature, found that people living in Qatar take some 4,158 steps on average each day.

That’s a ways below the global average of 4,961.

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To arrive at their conclusions, scientists at the US-based university analyzed the steps taken by more than 700,000 people in 111 countries, using the data from the accelerometers on their smartphones.

Activity inequality

Interestingly, researchers said that the number of steps taken wasn’t as important as how evenly divided activity was between men and women.

The bigger the gap in activity levels, the more likely it was that the country struggled with obesity problems, the report’s authors said.

“When activity inequality is greatest, women’s activity is reduced much more dramatically than men’s activity, and thus the negative connections to obesity can affect women more greatly,” computer scientist Jure Leskovec said.

Qatar was ranked most unequal in terms of activity levels on the index,. Women take 38 percent fewer daily steps than men (2,978 compared to 4,802).

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Saudi Arabia, the UAE and the US also fared poorly when it came to activity inequality, and all of these nations also have a high prevalence of obesity.

At the top of the rankings were Hong Kong, China and Ukraine. In each of these countries, residents walked more than 6,000 steps a day.

‘Ticking time bomb’

Qatar and its neighbors’ poor scores likely don’t come as a surprise to many in the Gulf.

Just last month, medical experts warned that lifestyle-related diseases among women in the region are a “ticking time bomb.”

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In a new study about GCC women’s health issues, researchers found that the highest prevalence of obesity was in Qatar.

A whopping 45.3 percent of women in the country were classified as obese based on their body mass index. And 61 percent of women in Qatar walked less than 20 minutes a day.

Similar rates were found in other Gulf states, according to the report, titled The Ticking Time Bomb in Lifestyle-related Diseases Among Women in the Gulf Cooperation Council Countries.

This is in part due to a lack of facilities or access to fitness centers, the National reported.

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The desert climate, a lack of social support and prevalence of household help also play a role, according to the study’s lead author.

Dr. Mashael Alshaikh explained:

“The social norms and the effect of urbanization, such as importing cheap labor to help the woman in the house – this limits the physical activity, even inside the house.

Data from the WHO shows that the countries with gender inequality have more health risks, that’s why we focused on cardiovascular disease prevention.”

Walkability

To improve activity levels worldwide, Stanford researchers suggested creating an environment in which it is safe and enjoyable to walk.

Citing examples in the US, Dr. Scott Delp said:

“If you must cross major highways to get from point A to point B in a city, the walkability is low; people rely on cars,” he said. “In cities like New York and San Francisco, where you can get across town on foot safely, the city has high walkability.”

In Qatar, walking continues to be a difficult and sometime dangerous activity. This is due to ongoing construction, the heat and stares from passersby, according to some women.

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However, authorities are working to establish more pedestrian-friendly interchanges, especially at “black spots” around the country.

What else do you think can be done to boost activity levels in Qatar? Thoughts?

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Qatar’s high level of air pollution has earned it a spot on a new map that highlights the world’s most toxic countries.

The Gulf state ranked fourth worst on the list, which was published in January by UK-based Eco Experts and picked up by the Weather Channel this week.

The most toxic country was neighboring Saudi Arabia, followed by Kuwait and Bahrain. The UAE and Oman came just after Qatar on the index.

EcoExperts

World’s most toxic nations

To come up with the map, Eco Experts analyzed data from the World Health Organization (WHO) and the International Energy Agency. It zeroed in specifically on five factors:

  • Energy consumption, per capita;
  • Carbon dioxide emissions from fuel combustion, per capita;
  • Air pollution;
  • Deaths attributable to air pollution, per 100,00 capita; and
  • Renewable energy production.

Eco Experts

Asia and Middle East region

In a statement, SEO manager Jon Whiting explained the company’s motivations for coming up with the rankings.

“This research is a way of naming and shaming the worst offenders around the world. Their lack of action against emissions not only puts their populations at risk of deadly pollution-related diseases but also threatens the future of our planet.

These threats are not distant concerns for future generations; their effects are being felt now and lives are already being lost. This research highlights the need for every country to act fast and put more investment into renewable energy alternatives.”

Pollution problem

As an energy producing nation, it’s no surprise that Qatar has one of the largest carbon footprints in the world.

But Qatar also has poor air quality.

According to a 2016 WHO report, air pollution in Qatar vastly exceeds safe limits and is damaging the health of the population.

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It stated that Qatar has the second highest levels of PM2.5 particles in the world, behind Saudi Arabia.

These types of particles are small and fine, making it easier to affect the respiratory system and thus particularly dangerous to health.

Exposure to fine PM2.5 particles can cause coughing, shortness of breath, chronic bronchitis, reduced lung function, lung cancer and heart disease.

Recent research has also linked them to brain diseases like Alzheimer’s.

Qatar Foundation

QF solar project

Aware of the country’s dismal environmental record, Qatar has been working to invest more in renewable energy sources.

And last year, it signed onto the Paris Agreement, the first universal action plan to tackle global warming.

Thoughts?

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Qatar is the best place in the Arab world for children to grow up safely, securely and healthily, according to a new global index by Save The Children.

The international charity’s inaugural Stolen Childhoods: End of Childhood report, published this month, rated 172 countries according to their living standards for children and adolescents.

It examined several factors relating to health, society, politics and culture that can impact a child’s safety and security.

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With a score of 947, Qatar ranked 34th overall, and was the top Arab country. Globally, it was just behind Singapore (33th) but ahead of the US (36th).

All the Gulf states included came in the top 50. The next best performing was Kuwait in 38th place (938 points), followed by Oman at 43rd and Saudi Arabia at 47th.

The UAE and Bahrain did not feature in the index due to insufficient data, the report said.

Key factors

Countries were measured according to eight indicators:

  • Under-five mortality;
  • Child (mal)nutrition;
  • Children out of school;
  • Incidence of child labor;
  • Adolescent girls (15-19 years) married or in a union;
  • Birth rate for adolescent girls;
  • Child homicide rate; and
  • Figures for population forcibly displaced due to conflict.

Scores were given for each indicator to create an overall country score which then determined the ranking of each state.

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According to the report, the nations with the highest scores held the top rankings, because their children were presumed to have the most protected childhoods.

Meanwhile, children in countries at the bottom of the table were most at risk of having their childhoods ended prematurely, the report said.

The index is the first in what will be an annual examination of countries’ performance by Save the Children.

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The charity estimates that at least 700 million children globally have faced circumstances – which it described as “an assault on the future of our children” – that have ended childhood prematurely.

“Childhood should be a safe time of life for growing, learning and playing. Every child deserves a childhood of love, care and protection so they can develop to their full potential. But this is not the experience for at least a quarter of our children worldwide,” the report said.

Qatar’s score

In terms of risk factors for kids, Qatar was classified as “very low.” According to the statistics cited in the report:

  • Child mortality was recorded at 8/1,000 live births;
  • Only 4 percent of children are classified as “out of school;”
  • Some 4 percent of girls (15-19 years) are recorded as being married or in a union; and
  • The birth rate for adolescent girls is 10.5 per 1,000.

Meanwhile, the child homicide rate (deaths up to age 19) per 100,000 population was reported as 2.9, which the report said was “low.”

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There were no figures included for malnutrition or children in child labor. No children were recorded as being displaced due to conflict.

Nevertheless, Qatar is still grappling with high rates of childhood obesity and diabetes.

Figures from 2013 found that one third of its boys (under 20 years) were overweight or obese – the highest percentage in the MENA region.

Although the figure for girls under 20 was lower, at 22 percent, it had nearly doubled since 1980 and medical experts have previously warned of a potential childhood obesity epidemic in the country unless social changes take place.

Authorities in the country have responded through public initiatives to encourage more active lifestyles and dissuade people from eating excessive amounts of fast-food.

In comparison, Saudi Arabia came behind Qatar in the report due to factors such as a higher child mortality rate – 14.5 per 1,000 live births.

Additionally, nearly 10 percent of children under five years in the Kingdom were classified as malnourished, according to the report.

Best and worst

The top of the index was dominated by European countries, with Norway and Slovenia taking joint first place, followed by Finland.

The only non-European country in the top 10 was South Korea, which shared 10th place with Germany.

At the opposite end of the scale, seven of the bottom 10 countries were from West and Central Africa.

Mali came in at 170th, followed by Angola and then Niger last, at 172nd and with a score of just 384.

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Primary school in Niger

In Niger, 95.5 children per 1,000 die under the age of five, 43 percent of children under the age of 3.5 years old are malnourished, more than half (54.6 percent) of children are out of school and nearly one-third of five to 14-year-olds are working.

The report added:

“Millions of children around the world are left behind, either by design or neglect. They are missing out on quality health care and basic learning simply because of who they are or where they live.”

Thoughts?