'Killer' lifestyle diseases rise in UAE

Health organisation warns obesity, diabetes and hypertension are leading to more deaths in UAE.
By Amy Glass
Tue 29 Jan 2008 11:44 AM

Lifestyle diseases such as obesity, diabetes and hypertension are increasingly leading to deaths in the UAE, according to the World Health Organisation (WHO).

Najeeb Al Shorbaiji, knowledge management coordinator at the WHO, said the organisation had observed a noticeable shift in the pattern of diseases in the UAE.

“Communicable diseases such as malaria, polio and tuberculosis are no longer a threat but lifestyle diseases obesity, diabetes and hypertension are leading to UAE deaths,” he told UAE daily Khaleej Times on Monday.

“The WHO is monitoring lifestyle disease trends in the region and collecting data that will be used to formulate plans to tackle the diseases,” he added.

Recent research has revealed citizens of the GCC countries have an unusually high prevalence of Type 2 diabetes and obesity relative to the rest of the world, and the health complications associated with both are expected to dramatically impact the region in the future.

According to WHO, Saudi Arabia has the world's third highest rate of obesity with a huge 35.6% of its population categorised as overweight, the UAE comes fourth with 33.7%, followed in sixth place by Bahrain (28.9%) and Kuwait in seventh place (28.8%).

The UAE (19.5%) pips Saudi Arabia (16.7%) into second place in the list of countries with the highest rates of diabetes, with Bahrain in third (15.2%), Kuwait in fourth (14.4%) and Oman in fifth (13.1%), according to WHO.

Al Shorbaiji was speaking at the Arab Health conference, and told attendees WHO had finalised a regional disease alert system to be adopted by GCC countries before the end of 2008.

“Under the system, the UAE will report disease outbreaks to WHO, which will have access to all the data and will use the appropriate information to display on its website. This is particularly important now because of outbreak of avian flu worldwide,” he said.

Al Shorbaiji said WHO had also opened strategic health operations centres in the GCC region for the reporting of avian influenza, where notifications for the flu can be received round the clock.

The establishment of a federal health insurance authority to regulate the UAE industry was also announced at the Arab Health conference.

Ajit Nagpal, former adviser to the UAE Ministry of Health and a member of an inter-ministerial committee on health insurance, told the conference that the proposals for the regulatory body were currently being examined by the UAE justice, labour and health ministries.

Compulsory health insurance for expatriates began in Abu Dhabi this month, while Dubai has established a steering committee with compulsory insurance expected to be introduced in 2008, Nagpal said.

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