Sharing is caring

30 Oct 2014
POSTED BY Y Magazine

Many illnesses are inherited, which means it’s vital to keep your loved ones up-to-date with your family’s health history.

Family is one of the most important foundations of Omani society – from parents to children and grandparents to extended relatives such as cousins, aunts and uncles. Family gatherings are very popular in the Sultanate – and they are a great opportunity to connect and turn relationships into strong, eternal ties. But perhaps it’s time to start trying a new tradition – sharing your health history with your family. Passing down family health history can be as important as sharing that recipe your great grandmother shared with your grandmother, who then passed it down to your mother. Many health conditions run in the family, so knowing the history can help you or your loved ones take the right steps to stay well and get tested if any of you are at risk. Sharing health history means having a conversation about your health conditions or those experienced by another family member. These conversations can transform a simple update about a loved one’s well-being into a piece of prevention.

Why is sharing health history important?

Though marked with stories and laughter, family gatherings are also a perfect time to talk about important matters that affect the health of your family members. As the number of those with common ailments such as obesity, heart disease, diabetes and cancer continues to rise in Oman, other major conditions should not be overlooked, such as kidney disease. There are usually no symptoms for the early stages of kidney disease, which is why it is sometimes called a “silent disease”. The two primary causes of kidney disease are diabetes and high blood pressure, both of which have high incidences in Oman.

In countries such as the US, the National Kidney Disease Education Program (NKDEP) is encouraging relatives at family gatherings to talk about the connection between diabetes, high blood pressure and kidney disease. The Program’s Family Reunion Health Guide is designed to help you plan large group or one-on-one conversations about kidney disease. And while it is a US-based programme, you can still download a copy of it at

According to a recent report in the local press, more than 1,500 people are receiving kidney dialysis up to three times a week in Oman. The report added that at least 50 per cent of patients on dialysis would need a kidney transplant, while many of the “patients undergoing treatment in Oman are in their 20s and 30s”. Kidney disease is also caused by a lack of water content in the body, which is also common to the region, and can lead to kidney stones.

Five tips for starting the conversation

Talking about health history at family gatherings can be challenging, especially considering cultural taboos in the GCC region. But having a strategy for difficult conversations can help guide the discussion and make it a meaningful and productive experience. Here are some tips for getting a one-on-one conversation started at your next gathering:

  1. Ask permission to have the conversation and try to choose a convenient time and comfortable environment. Look for a quiet, private place that is free from distractions.
  2. Acknowledge that it is not always easy to face personal health problems. Try to be supportive and listen to everyone’s concerns.
  3. Include personal stories in your health discussion. Try sharing your story on how you manage diabetes or high blood pressure to help put them at ease.
  4. Offer to go with family members to their health care provider and encourage them to bring information about kidney disease, diabetes and high blood pressure to appointments.
  5. Follow up with family members in ways that work for them. Some relatives may prefer a phone call to an email or text message.

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