520,010 (26.4 %) of the population of Oman is in the adolescent age group of 10-19 years, whilst youth (15-24) represent 27.3%. These groups fall under the WHO classification of Young People (10-24). The MoH aims to promote healthy lifestyles among adolescents and youth and to expand efficient, high quality, and comprehensive health services to all young people across the sultanate.
A National Adolescent Health Strategy was developed in 2007 with involvement of relevant sectors in the country. UNICEF, UNFPA and WHO played a key role in the development of this strategy which mainly addresses reproductive health, as well as healthy lifestyle concerns, and risky behaviours leading to HIV/AIDS. (Link to ado Health strategy)
The use of tobacco products among youth in Oman is an issue that needs attention. A Global Youth Tobacco Survey (GYTS) among students aged 13-15 years in 2007 revealed that although the prevalence of cigarette smoking had dropped compared to the GYTS in 2003, the prevalence of smoking other tobacco products had increased dramatically. Link of survey One in ten students ever smoked cigarettes in their lifetime, Overall, 14.4% of students used tobacco products other than cigarettes. About one third of students aged 13-15 years have ever initiated smoking before the age of 10. Nearly one third to one half of students that smoked thought that boys and girls who smoke have more friends or look more attractive.
As smoking is seen as a national priority, a national multi-sectoral committee was established in 1994 and re-formulated in 1997, by a Ministerial Decree, under the chairmanship of the Undersecretary for Health. There is need for comprehensive national tobacco control legislation. Health education campaigns that focus on protecting young people from smoking and generate awareness among their parents are being carried out.
Obesity in school children has been highlighted as a global problem during a GCC School Health Conference held in Oman 2007. To combat obesity, the MoH with UNICEF support commissioned training of school health staff on effectively measuring obesity as part of their regular screening programme for school children in grades 1, 7 and 10. This has resulted in early detection of obesity, allowing for appropriate and timely interventions by the school. The Ministry of Health has also adopted the WHO 'Global Strategy on Diet, Physical Activity and Health' Link to global strategy in response to the universal challenge in combating public health issues such as obesity, diabetes, hypertension, referred to as 'Lifestyle Diseases'.
A 2008 survey carried out on the Peer Education Initiative Link of survey in Oman revealed that 33.9% of young people speed whilst driving, and 33.4% drive without a license. Morbidity and mortality in children 1 to 18 years of age, resulting from preventable injuries and road accidents constitute a major public health concern in Oman. In 2004, as per MOH reports, Road Traffic Injuries (RTIs) contributed for 16% of deaths in 1-15 years. Among those hospitalised, falls and RTIs accounted for 41% and 14%, respectively. However, in latter age groups, a reversal of trend with an increase in RTIs is seen as young adults begin to use roads for mobility. In 2010, XXX men, women and children were reported dead at the scene of crashes.
With regards to HIV/AIDS, Oman remains a low prevalence country at 0.1% and is positioned globally amongst countries with the lowest HIV/AIDS prevalence (WHO classification). Since 1999, the number of cases reported per year has stabilised at an average of 80-90, but has been rising in the last few years. The total number of registered cases of HIV/AIDS was 99 in 2007 representing an increase of about 17.4% from the previous year and 116 in 2008. The number of males far exceeded females (82.2% of registered cases were male). Young people, 20-49 years of age account for the most vulnerable age-group, as a result of the current rapid socio-economic progress in the Sultanate.
There is an increasing vulnerability of youth towards adopting risky behaviours associated with HIV transmission. Data gathered from the Adolescent Health Survey (2001), National Health Survey (2004), and a 2005 UNICEF funded HIV situation and response analysis indicated that although youth has sufficient knowledge on HIV/AIDS, knowledge on sexually transmitted Infections (STI) was poor. The Global School Health Survey 2005 indicated that 97.6% of students had heard of HIV and AIDS, and over 65% had been taught about the disease in school. More than 80% knew the various methods of infection and disease transmission, but a third of them believed that hand shaking and kissing were also means of transmission.
Raising awareness of HIV/AIDS and STIs and their control, a high priority for Oman, is accomplished by the development of prevention programmes for young people and other groups at risk, and through outreach activities. A number of activities have been implemented to raise awareness of young people on risky behaviours – their prevention and control - to ensure they realise their full potential and develop into healthy young adults. A Peer Education Project for Young People in Oman was initiated by the MoE and the MoH in collaboration with UNICEF as part of the National HIV/AIDS Strategy, towards increasing awareness of HIV/AIDS /STIs and enhancing young people’s knowledge of healthy behaviours and reproductive health. The programme has been expanded to cover additional healthy life styles topics, namely, nutrition (anaemia, bulimia, anorexia, and obesity), addiction (to drugs and tobacco in their various forms), road safety (with emphasis on children safety), HIV and STI (prevention, misconceptions and stigma) and youth violence (with emphasis on bullying).
Additionally, the MoH in collaboration with UNICEF launched a website dedicated to HIV/AIDS www.omanaids.org in 2009 targeting young people and reaching out to them with a reliable network for them to turn to with regards to HIV/AIDS. This was the first of its kind in the GCC. Furthermore, MoH in collaboration with UNICEF, WHO, and UNFPA launched a social communication campaign on HIV/AIDS nationwide under the slogan 'Lets Talk AIDS' in January 2009. The campaign aimed to raise awareness of Omani society on HIV/AIDS, dismiss misconceptions, reinforce protective sexual behaviour and create an environment of tolerance and solidarity with PLHIV. Although the campaign addressed to the general audience, messagesmostly focused on the protection of young people.