The Ministry of Health program, titled “For you and your Family,” aims to raise awareness about the wide range of services available at family clinics, primary healthcare centers, and hospitals throughout the Kingdom.
Medical help includes the early detection of diseases, appropriate interventions, curative care, and continuous monitoring of common community illnesses.
Professor and family medicine consultant at King Saud University Medical City, Dr. Lubna Al-Ansary, told Arab News: “Each family is unique, but family members tend to have similar genetic predisposition and share the same habits related to lifestyle, perception of what is illness, as well as their help-seeking behaviors.
“When all members of the family consult the same physician, it means that communication relating to health and illness in the family is flowing.”
She said the practice helped doctors to understand family dynamics and health risks, improve diagnoses, and plan comprehensive health management approaches.
“The family physician is supposed to diagnose and treat 85 to 90 percent of the problems that patients have; only 10 to 15 percent will be referred to other specialties,” Al-Ansary added.
She pointed out that the provision of good family medicine formed the basis of any effective healthcare system, and that all medical graduates should experience working in the area.
In launching the initiative, ministry officials hope to help family physicians further understand the psychological state of patients, consider factors in their social environment, diagnose illnesses, provide medical advice for common symptoms and complaints such as headaches and localized pain, and offer early examination services for ailments including diabetes, hypertension, and cancer.
Al-Ansary said: “These other specialties focus on depth, while family medicine focuses on breadth. Family medicine focuses on people and families and how to help them maintain health while considering psychological and sociological aspects.”
She noted that doctors needed to be proactive in anticipating the future needs of families and preventing the development of illness and complications, through health education, screening, and early detection.
Chronic illnesses — non-communicable diseases — were on the rise, she added, but could often be dealt with by lifestyle changes that other family members could support.
“Another example is when a person is diagnosed with a terminal illness, like cancer, he or she is not the only patient as the whole family needs support in adapting and understanding what may come next.”
Family doctors also provided referrals to other medical specialties for patients requiring advanced therapeutic or surgical interventions, as well as health planning, and ongoing communication with individuals and their families.
In addition, Al-Ansary pointed out that primary healthcare centers provided services including gastroenterology, cardiology, pediatrics, sexual health advice, and radiology.
“The new model of care — a program of Vision 2030 — can only be properly implemented and sustained if there are enough well-trained family physicians who are financially satisfied, socially rewarded, and scientifically supported to keep up to date, to choose with their patients and families what is best for them, and to cater for the needs of society as a whole,” she added.