Muscat: As part of the Omani health ministry’s Masirah Island Health Initiative, the first community centre in the Sultanate will aid in health care and well-being of residents of the country’s largest island, off the east coast of mainland Oman. At 95km long (north-south), Masirah has a population of just above 12,000 people.
The Masirah Island Community Centre will extend its services to both Omanis and expats, as well as tourists.
Run in collaboration with several public and private sector entities, the Initiative has partnered with international institutions, such as the World Health Organisation and the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA).
Dr Saeed Bin Hareb Al Lamki, Director General of Primary Health Care, Ministry of Health (MoH), emphasised community initiatives as an advanced tool in primary health care systems. He also added that community partnership and intersectoral cooperation were major aspects adopted by the MoH to achieve development and integration between various health programmes.
The community centre has the mandate to respond to direct needs of island residents, which is being made possible with UNFPA’s technical support to the Masirah Healthy Island Project, a MoH programme.
Salah Al Saleh, senior programme officer at UNFPA’s GCC office, who manages the project, said the official opening of the Centre is yet to be confirmed by the MoH and will depend on various factors, including securing funds for a defined period of time, recruitment of staff and volunteers, among others.
With the establishment of a new Masirah Island hospital earlier in South Sharqiyah governorate, ideas were mulled on how to use the old hospital building in a community-friendly manner. The island’s residents expressed their wish to have a community centre that integrates basic primary health services, Al Saleh said.
Speaking to Gulf News, he added: “For the community centre, we conducted a rapid needs assessment to ensure the planning process was evidence based.
This included focus group discussions with the island’s residents encompassing teachers, parents, women, adolescents and youth, as well as individuals with special needs, totalling 150 participants.”
Participants of the focus group discussions took part in the centre’s assessment to aid UNFPA in the development of a concrete plan for its establishment, he added.
Apart from health services, the centre will also offer language courses, training initiatives, and environmental activities.
Shaima Aly, Programme and Communication Associate at UNFPA GCC office, plays a pivotal role in ensuring visibility of the community centre on national, regional and international levels.
“Apart from providing basic primary health care services, the centre will act as a platform for health programmes and campaigns of various ministries, such as the Ministry of Health, Ministry of Sports, and Ministry of Education’s Physical Activity Campaign,” Aly said.
In line with the government’s ‘Health Vision 2050’, attempts are being made to visualise health systems of the future, leading up to 2050.
Forecasts show Oman is expected to have a total population of slightly more than 7 million by 2050. Those 60 and above are expected to make up 13.1 per cent of the Omani population in 2050, compared with 6.1 per cent in 2012.