The incidence of Diabetes in the Middle East is on an alarming rise. This is not only detrimental to people’s lifestyle and health, but also to the productivity of an economy. The Middle East and North Africa Region have been reported to have the highest rate of diabetic incidences in the world.Six out of the top ten countries in the world, for the highest incidence of diabetes are in the Middle East and North Africa Region – Kuwait, Lebanon, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates. The region has the highest comparative prevalence of diabetes (11.0%). The dramatic increase in the prevalence of diabetes is because of the rapid economic development coupled with ageing populations.
Dr. Naji Al Johani a member on the board of directors of the Saudi Diabetic Society in Riyadh, stated that obesity is one of main reasons for the rise of Diabetes in the Kingdom. He stated that almost 30% of the Saudi population is diabetic and the majority falls above the age of 30. “About 35 percent of the elderly citizens and 30 percent of children are obese,” he pointed out.
The kingdom in the recent past has undertaken many actions to curb the rising rate of Diabetes. In Riyadh the society organized an awareness program on how to avoid diabetes through weight loss and regular exercise. The King Abdulla Hospital in Bisha organized a conference on the latest treatments for Diabetes.
The health department of Saudi Arabia has taken a step forward and it distributed blood glucose monitoring devices among patients.
“Awareness about diabetes is the first and most important step,” said Dr Mahmood Jareery an endocrinologist based in the U.K. According to him the problem starts when you eat the wrong type of food. “Arabs have big families and large meals. This was compensated in the past by hard manual labour. However, the present generation is affluent and mostly have a sedentary lifestyle. This affluence has come with a massive price tag on their health, and the advent of diabetes.
In comparison to other countries, the government of UAE has been proactive when it comes to fighting diabetes among its midst.
“The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has diagnosed the rise in diabetes only recently,” Mark Miller, a dietician and fitness trainer in Dubai told Arabian Gazette. “However the UAE has diagnosed the problem a long time ago and has been taking steps to curb the ‘epidemic’ as I call it!”
The UAE has organized many conferences to identify and tackle the problem of diabetes. This year alone Emirates has hosted several diabetic conferences. The first American Diabetes Association Middle East Congress, “Diabetes Prevention and Treatment” was held in December 2012. The third Diabetic Foot conference was held in November. The first World Diabetic Congress was held in Dubai. It was the first Congress of the International Diabetic Federation (IDF) in the MENA region.
“The government of UAE has spent thousands of dirhams in educating its people about diabetes,” Fathima Al Rawdha an Emirati told Arabian Gazette. “Ten years ago we didn’t know what diabetes was, little realizing that it was living amongst us. Now, this is not the case. I would say that compared to any other country in the Gulf, the UAE has gone an extra mile for the sake of its people’s health.”
The UAE needs to be commended in its efforts for fighting the silent killer disease. The commitment of the UAE Health Ministry and the government in this regard is truly admirable.