Mohammad Baloola interview: Beating the bulge

Sudanese national says his new invention can help lower diabetes in the Middle East

Mohammad Baloola Sudanese national Mohammad Baloola says his new invention can help lower incidence of diabetes — one of the most serious diseases afflicting Gulf populations.

With four members of his family suffering from diabetes, finding inspiration for a final year project to complete Mohammad Baloola’s biomedical engineering training at Ajman University of Science and Technology was easy.

The Sudanese national set about creating an artificial pancreas and a remote system to monitor the stability of glucose levels in diabetics. The device, which can be linked to a hospital database system as well as family and friends, enables an immediate response if a medical situation arises.

“I got my inspiration from my family members and the community around me. Many of my relatives; my brother, father, mother, uncle all suffer from diabetes. And they are not alone, the UAE has more than 350,000 diabetes sufferers, which is expected to increase nearly 100 percent to 680,000 by 2030 — it’s a critical situation in this part of the world,” he tells Arabian Business.

Poor diet coupled with lack of physical activity and rapidly rising obesity rates in the Middle East have seen diabetes rates soar in recent years. The disease currently affects an estimated 18.7 percent of the UAE adult population, the second highest prevalence worldwide, according to data from the International Diabetes Federation. About 25 percent of Emirati men and almost 40 percent of women in the country are classified as obese.

In neighbouring Saudi Arabia, the Gulf’s most populous state, more than twelve percent of adults aged between 20 and 79 years old are diabetic. Bahrain, Kuwait and Oman rank among the top eight countries worldwide for diabetes prevalence, according to data from the International Diabetes Federation. Experts have warned the financial impact of these rapidly rising diabetes rates could have a potentially devastating effect on the local economy if levels were left untreated. The cost of treating diabetes related illnesses ranges between 2.5 percent to fifteen percent of a Middle Eastern country’s healthcare budget, according to the World Health Organisation. In the UAE, Dr Hanif Hassan Ali Al Qassim, the minister of health in the Emirates, estimates that figure to be around 13 percent of the Gulf state’s healthcare budget.

Several GCC governments have introduced programmes to raise awareness of preventative care but Baloola — only too aware of the financial costs involved in treating the disease — believes his device could help save regional governments millions of dollars in treating kidney failure and other related causes. “The biggest problem from diabetes is kidney failure, which occurs in critical situations, and requires dialysis three times a week, which is difficult for the patient and expensive for the government,” he says.

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