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Prioritizing health promotion in Saudi Arabia

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submitted on 2023-08-15, 10:33 and posted on 2023-08-28, 12:01 authored by Nature Research

The World Health Organization defines health promotion as “the process of enabling people to increase control over, and to improve, their health.” This process requires a sharing of responsibilities between individuals, community groups, health professionals and institutions, the media and governments.

But, “little is known about the practice of health promotion in Saudi Arabia at a time where there’s an increasing rate of communicable and non-communicable chronic diseases in the country,” says diagnostic radiologist Samar AlTamimi, currently with King Faisal Specialist Hospital and Research Center in Saudi Arabia.

Investigating current practices and perceptions of health promotion is necessary, she says, particularly when dealing with a population that tends to seek medical attention only after the development of disease.

To address this need, AlTamimi and colleagues collected questionnaires from 206 primary healthcare professionals in five polyclinics in Saudi Arabia’s capital city Riyadh. The team aimed to assess how these professionals — including general practitioners, family physicians, paediatricians, obstetricians, gynaecologists and nurses — perceived health promotion practices in primary care centres under the umbrella of Saudi Arabia’s Ministry of National Guard Health Affairs.

“Despite the primary healthcare professionals having a generally good attitude toward health promotion practices — perceiving themselves as having the knowledge and skills to engage in health promotion — three quarters of them did not believe that patients with complications change their behaviour on the basis of their advice,” says AlTamimi. Almost two-thirds of the respondents felt that language barriers and cultural beliefs among patients formed obstacles to providing effective health promotion. Saudi Arabia and other Arab Gulf countries employ a particularly large number of non-natives in a variety of industries. Almost 80% of those surveyed for this study were non-Saudis and 56% were non-Arabic speakers.

The study also found that the respondents conducted health promotion most commonly by means of printed educational materials, whereas their most preferred method was providing advice through personal counselling.

For health promotion to be most effective, it needs to be tailored to the existing needs and challenges in any particular setting, adds AlTamimi.

The results of this — although limited — study indicate a need for trained interpreters to help healthcare professionals in Saudi Arabia address language barriers with an Arabic-speaking population. Transcultural educational programmes would also be beneficial to address cultural barriers, the researchers note. The researchers also recommend widespread training programmes to improve the confidence levels of healthcare professionals in influencing behavioural change in patients. Finally, they recommend further research on the effectiveness of printed educational materials as a method for health promotion in Saudi Arabia.

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Published in: Highlights, Published by Nature Research for Hamad bin Khalifa University Press (HBKU Press)



  • English


Nature Research

Publication Year

  • 2016

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This Item is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License

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  • Hamad Bin Khalifa University

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