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Wed 6 Jan 2010 07:03 AM

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Expert's warning on obesity to UAE expat workers

Medical chief says workers more likely to suffer from condition after spell in UAE.

Expert's warning on obesity to UAE expat workers
WEIGHT ISSUE: A health expert has issued a warning to expat workers in the UAE. (Getty Images - for illustrative purposes only)

Expatriate workers hailing from the Indian subcontinent are far more likely to suffer from obesity after spending a period of time in the UAE then they are on arrival into the country, a top medical expert has warned.

The worrying claim was raised at the ‘Global Health and the UAE: Asia-Middle East Connections’ conference, which is taking place this week at the UAE University in Al Ain.

“When workers arrive into the UAE their obesity levels are far lower after they have been here for a period of time,” Dr Mark Newson-Smith, chief medical officer of Emirates National Oil Company (ENOC), told delegates at the conference.

“So what are we doing to them? In a recent survey of workers it was found that before employment workers from India had an obesity level of 2 percent the level rising to 7 percent among workers in employment; those from the Philippines were at 6 percent on arrival rising to 8 percent and those from Pakistan were at 16 percent on arrival rising to 43 percent.

“There is something socially and culturally which is impacting everyone,” Dr Newson-Smith said, adding that ENOC was combating the issue by introducing a wellness programme that includes reviews of food being eaten onsite and other methods to promote a healthy lifestyle.

The expert also told delegates that the UAE should not underestimate the effect on healthcare providers of bringing in large numbers of people from the Indian subcontinent, an area that has a particularly high prevalence of diabetes.

While it remains to be seen what the long-term effects of such imported mixing will be, the rise in migratory populations across Asia is likely to result in the transported prevalence of a number of diseases rising, the ENOC medical officer warned.

One way of alleviating this problem is to increase the transparency of information and preparedness between the health authorities of both sending and receiving countries.

Dr Newson-Smith indicated that of the 3.5 million workers in the UAE, 83 percent are expatriate, with 42.5 percent of the total workforce emanating from the Indian subcontinental region.

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Sunny 10 years ago

Yes, because here you don't have time for anything else except work and traveling to work. Besides, memberships of gyms are so high that only high-income people can afford it. One gets up early in order to reach office on time and arrive late at home because of the traffic, so tired that is impossible to think of sport. Also, the prevailing hot wheather in UAE prevents people from walking outside most time of the year.