Plan to include mental illness in insurance cover in capital

Department of Health — Abu Dhabi will also launch initiatives to reduce injuries among children and to improve oral health

Abu Dhabi: A new plan to improve mental well-being among residents could soon see many expatriates in Abu Dhabi gaining better access to treatment options, and it will also enhance screening and diagnosis options for mental illnesses, a top health official said here on Tuesday.

The plan, which will be put into effect this year by the Department of Health — Abu Dhabi, is aimed at tackling the increasing burden of mental illnesses, many of which are closely linked to highly prevalent chronic conditions like diabetes and cancer, said Dr Omniyat Al Hajeri, director of public health at the Department.

“The lack of awareness about mental illnesses, and the limited access to treatment options, has long been a concern for us, especially as most developed nations already have well-established programmes in place to tackle mental illnesses. This plan aims to fill that gap,” Dr Al Hajeri told Gulf News.

She was speaking on the sidelines of a public health forum organised by the Department to discuss existing challenges and developments in the sector.

The exact burden of mental illnesses in Abu Dhabi is not known at present, and Dr Al Hajeri said establishing a surveillance system to determine this is also a key part of the plan.

“The strategy has been completed. All that remains is to determine how it will be implemented and by which entities,” the official said.

Dr Al Hajeri also stressed that improving insurance coverage for mental conditions is a necessary component of the plan. Although 99 per cent of Abu Dhabi residents have health insurance, most plans available to expatriate residents currently do not cover treatment for mental conditions.

In addition to tackling mental illnesses, the Department is also set to focus on filling gaps in a few other areas, in addition to its annual campaigns to encourage cancer screening and awareness of non-communicable diseases.

“For instance, we want to reduce the prevalence of injuries among children. For many years, the department has encouraged the use of car seats, and worked with its partners to reduce road traffic injuries. In addition, we have also conducted previous campaigns to create awareness about poisoning hazards. This time, we want to shed light on preventable injuries that can occur around the house,” Dr Al Hajeri said.

According to the official, the rate of such injuries is not known to be on the rise.

“Yet, any instance of a preventable injury can be tragic for a family. Our campaign, which will be launched within the next three months, will aim to educate family members about common dangers posed by sharp edges, unwatched swimming pools, boiling pots, unlocked doors and reversing vehicles,” she added.

Later on, the strategy could even be extended to highlight common causes of injuries among the elderly.

Other new initiatives will be geared at providing dental treatment for children through schools, in a bid to improve residents’ oral health, and at encouraging more active lifestyles.

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