Abu Dhabi to unveil "pay-for-health" scheme

First-of-a-kind scheme will financially reward citizens who opt to lead a healthier lifestyle

Abu Dhabi is reportedly set to unveil the world’s first state-backed health programme which will give citizens financial rewards in return for leading a healthier lifestyle and reducing their risk of developing Type 2 diabetes.

The “pay-for-health” programme will be operated by private companies and citizens will be offered airline miles, discounts on healthy groceries and even hard cash if they opt to pursue a healthier lifestyle.

“Diabetes is our number-one public health priority” among non-infectious diseases, Oliver Harrison, director of strategy at the Abu Dhabi health authority, told the Bloomberg.

Three private insurers and health companies are currently tendering to operate the programme and the winning bidder will be announced by the end of the year, Harrison was quoted as saying.

As part of the programme, citizens who agree to lose weight, change their diet, exercise more or take a cholesterol-lowering drug, could be rewarded with around AED1,000 (US$272) for every 1 percent reduction in the risk of them contracting a cardiovascular disease or Type 2 diabetes, the report added.

Similar privately operated schemes are already in operation in the US, where participants are given US$500 for participating in monitored weight-loss schemes.

The announcement comes as the International Diabetes Federation (IDF) claimed the number of people suffering with diabetes in the Middle East and North Africa is expected to double in less than 20 years.

The Abu Dhabi initiative is the latest scheme to try and reduce soaring rates of diabetes in the region. Last month, health-conscious Arabs were targeted by a new iPad application, which is believed to be the first to offer users variety of eating options based on a range of diets.

“ROKCO” – the brainchild of European chef Rok Jurca – allows users to choose between nine different diet options, including low calories, low cholesterol, low carbohydrates, vegetarian and vegan.

Video recipes of meals, which are searched directly through YouTube, many which come with a detailed breakdown of the consumption of calories, proteins, fats, cholesterol, carbohydrates and sugar.

Speaking in Dubai at the Middle East launch of the app, Jurca told Arabian Business: “There is no shortage of video recipes out there – what I wanted to do is create on with a really detailed guide not just of how to cook something, but exactly what it is you are putting in your mouth.  I’m hoping that this region, especially with the health issues it faces, can benefit most.”

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