By Gavin Davids
Middle East suffering from lack of healthcare infrastructure as diabetes, diseases, rise
Diabetes patient levels in the Middle East are set to rise to 51.7 million in the next 20 years, and the region will need to increase its healthcare infrastructure to cope, the general manager of Philips Healthcare has said.
A survey conducted by the Nielsen Company for Philips Healthcare found that the combination of a growing population and a highly sedentary lifestyle is resulting in an increase in diabetes, as well as other diseases such as obesity, hypertension, cardiovascular disease and certain types of cancer.
The World Health Organisation predicts that the number of diabetes patients in the MENA region will reach 51.7 million by 2030.
The sharp increase in healthcare demand will tax an already strained medical system, said Diederik Zeven, general manager of Philips Healthcare.
“It’s basically a combination of factors, specifically if you look at the Middle East; you have a growing population that is very young. Life expectancy goes up very rapidly due to the availability of technology and if you add to that certain predominant diseases, like diabetes, you can already make projections of the capacity requirements for the healthcare system, 20 or 30 years out, and then you can start planning your investments,” he said.
“You can see that here in the UAE, and also in Saudi Arabia, where governments, with the assistance of the private sector, are readying their social infrastructure, of which healthcare is a part of, to deal with this future requirement.”
Latest data from the International Diabetes Federation’s Diabetes Atlas 2010 puts the prevalence of diabetes in the UAE at 18.7 percent, when readjusted for international comparative purposes, or about 425,000 people.
Saudi Arabia is the next worst country in the region, with 16.8 percent of its population, or 2,065,300, affected by the disease.
At present, the region spends $5.5bn annually on diabetes, or 14 percent of its total healthcare expenditure, on treating the 26.6 million adults with diabetes. This number accounts for 9.3 percent of the world’s total cases, WHO added.
“Public-private partnerships are essential to implement these plans of action and this was expressed by the UAE Ministry of Health which said in 2010 that they cannot carry this burden alone and that dealing with the issue of obesity and diabetes is the responsibility of everyone — government, the private sector, NGOs and even families,” the survey report said.
Peter DeBenedictis, a spokesperson for Philips Healthcare, said that the region has seen a chronic underinvestment in healthcare, despite the low cost of healthcare for the last 20 years.
“There’s been underinvestment over the last two decades, and that’s changing, which is a good thing, we’re seeing tremendous amount of reinvestment happening now in the industry, which is going to have a positive outcome for people,” he said.
Calls to action have been loud for a number of years. The cost of lost lives & health is greater than the reactionary budget spent on this epidemic. Move the conversation to prevention & combating diabetes (type 2) takes on fighting obesity. Notwithstanding the modest investment in awareness programs, the efforts to date have been insufficient in resolving the problem.
It is good to hear a call for collective efforts. However a national initiative rooted in sustainability theory is critical for long term positive results. An initiative that cultivates an ecosystem that fosters healthy habits for youth is desperately needed.
An ecosystem is composed of connected and dependent components to provide the environment, energy, and room to grow for the next generation. In the UAE, for example, this involves structuring and encouraging collective efforts to promote healthy habits. Until then, well-intentioned disconnected efforts will not make a significant difference.