First GCC Genetic Conference opens
Bahrain hopes hereditary diseases will disappear in near future
The Government of Bahrain is exerting all efforts in trying to curb the spread of genetic diseases but, clearly, more efforts need to be made, the Minister of Health said yesterday.
Speaking during the opening of the first GCC Genetic Conference, at the Gulf International Convention and Exhibition Centre of Gulf Hotel, Dr Khalil Hassan said efforts exerted in this direction over the years have borne fruit and better results were on the way.
The conference is being held under the patronage of Chairwoman of the Supreme Council for Women (SCW) Shaikha Sabika bint Ibrahim Al Khalifa and is organised by Bahrain National Hereditary Anaemia Society in co-operation with the Ministry of Health, the Arabian Gulf University, the Health Ministers' Council of GCC States (HMCGCCS) and the World Health Organisation.
"We in Bahrain have one of the lowest infant mortality rates of seven per 1,000, and we have 99 per cent of our total population covered under immunisation," the minister said. "Additionally, we have 98 per cent of the newborns also immunised every year."
Dr Hassan said these were significant figures but even then lots of challenges lay ahead. "We still have to battle cancer, we have to look at the spread of cardiovascular diseases, and we still have to manage diabetes. All this requires major efforts."
The minister said he was very hopeful that hereditary diseases would disappear from the country in the very near future.
Citing the example of Cyprus, he said if they can do it, Bahrain could as well. "Towards this end, I'm also hoping the pre-marital screening proposal now before Parliament would be made into law soon."
Dr Hassan said when that happens, it would be a great achievement.
Speaking on the occasion, conference chairperson Dr Shaikha Al Arayyed said recently the human genome project has revealed new dimensions for diagnosis, treatment and the prevention of genetic disorders. "These new developments have contributed significantly in controlling genetic diseases."Measures such as screening and counselling are becoming essential tools of both public health and individual medical care."
She said the conference will underscore some of the advances made in the field of genetics. "Our aim is to enrich the knowledge of physicians and other health professionals in this field, to enhance awareness of genetic diseases and methods of prevention and highlight some recent discoveries made in the field."
Dr Al Arayyed said they were proud to gather distinguished national and international experts and scientists invited to participate and share with them their vast experience. "The conference is a great opportunity to know each other and learn from each other's experience. No doubt, however, it is a continuous learning process."
She said they hoped to establish a network of collaborative institutions which can lead them into the 21st century. "For this reason, we invite those interested to join as founding members in establishing the ‘GCC Genetic Society' that we propose to set up."
Dr Al Arrayyed said: "On behalf of the organising committee, I would like to thank Her Highness Shaikha Sabika bint Ibrahim Al Khalifa for her kind gesture in accepting the patronage of this conference.
"This indicates her continuous support and encouragement of science and scientists in our beloved country," she said.
She also thanked the Minister of Health for supporting activities aimed at preventing and reducing the prevalence of genetic diseases in the Kingdom as he has clearly indicated that controlling sickle-cell diseases is a priority on his agenda.
WHO head of non-communicable diseases Dr Victor Boulyjenkov also spoke during the inauguration ceremony attended by several officials from the Ministry of Health, other ministries and officials of the office of the SCW chairwoman.
Later, the minister, accompanied by HMCGGCS executive director Dr Tawfik A. M. Khoja as well as other officials toured an exhibition running concurrently with the conference.
Last update on: 6-10-2003