Dr. Sadriya Al-Kooheji of Qatar’s Primary Health Care Corporation says working with QF’s Doha International Family Institute is central to ensuring families and children have the right support
Family, education, health, and social protection are all essential to building a child’s personality and enhancing their skills, a Qatari health expert has said during a Qatar Foundation-hosted conference on children’s well-being.
According to Dr. Sadriya Al-Kooheji, Head of the Children's and Adolescent Health Program at the Primary Health Care Corporation (PHCC), the ‘Family Policy Symposium: Child Well-being in Qatar’ - organized by Doha International Family Institute (DIFI), a Qatar Foundation (QF) member - has addressed key challenges and proposed solutions to promote mental health and well-being of children in Qatar.
She believes conferences such as these are very important for providing an opportunity to network, share experiences, and create partnerships with specialized local entities, and that the outcomes of symposiums focusing on child well-being in Qatar have become a catalyst for primary health care entities to providing and developing healthcare services to meet the needs of the community.
Speaking about the connections between DIFI and PHCC, and their impact, Dr. Al-Kooheji said: “In terms of primary health care, we share the same goals and vision. We both focus on the health of the community as a whole by raising awareness, providing the necessary services, supporting families and promoting child well-being.
“All of these elements are central to DIFI’s goals towards maintaining physical, mental and emotional health. We use DIFI’s scientific research as a reference to build on and improve our healthcare services.”
If a child grows up in an environment full of understanding and compromise, they are less likely to have mental health challenges.
Mental health challenges
Focusing on the most prominent adolescent mental health issues facing families in Qatari society, Dr. Al-Kooheji said: "The challenges are significant, especially when dealing with adolescents.
“In general, this age group does not take responsibility for any misbehavior on their part. Additionally, families often do not recognize the need for intervention for any mental or behavioral problems seen in their children. This is where our educational role comes in.”
She also believes the cause of these challenges can be family circumstances, such as parents being preoccupied and inadvertently failing to give their children enough attention. “To make up for the absence of communication, parents resort to material solutions such as buying expensive gifts and video games, taking their child on trips, and other rewards that the child does not need as much as having a real emotional connection with their parents,” she said.
Families often do not recognize the need for intervention for any mental or behavioral problems seen in their children. This is where our educational role comes in.
Dr. Al-Kooheji advises parents to avoid conflict, as it creates a negative influence on the mental health of children. “Approximately 90% of children's mental health challenges are caused by family disagreements,” she said.
“A stressful environment leads to children behaving badly as a way of adapting to stress. On the other hand, if a child grows up in an environment full of understanding and compromise, they are less likely to have mental health challenges.”
And she highlights the key role of schools – including QF schools - in promoting children’s mental health. “Qatar Foundation's schools adopt pioneering curriculums that focus primarily on character building and skill development,” she explained.
“They enhance students' autonomy, community engagement and their ability to develop solutions to daily challenges. The focus is on the mental and behavioral aspect of the child, which is what QF schools are doing.”
One of PHCC’s main objectives is to develop healthcare services, including those in the sphere of mental health, for itself and other healthcare centers in Qatar, and collaboration with DIFI is prominent in this.
“We collaborate with DIFI on a regular basis in research and we participate in meaningful panel discussions,” said Dr. Al-Kooheji.
“We also collaborate with the World Innovation Summit for Health, a Qatar Foundation initiative, where we adopt most of its reports, especially with regards to building childcare and mental health systems and working on case studies. And we have several partnerships with Sidra Medicine, a member of Qatar Foundation, in the clinical and research fields.”
Dr Al-Kooheji says Qatar’s National Health Strategy 2018-2022 is one of the most important goals that PHCC is now seeking to achieve in the coming period, while also seeking to expand its own Adolescent Health Program and develop health information system; develop the skills of its medical staff through training and mentoring; provide home medical care for newborn babies to ensure integrated health services are available for this age group; and strengthen cross-sector partnerships that help to develop and implement and development of child and adolescent healthcare services.