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Sat 26 Apr 2014 01:58 AM

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New UAE health index highlights obesity problems

More than a half of respondents have BMI score in overweight and obese range, says NMC Health Index

New UAE health index highlights obesity problems
Dr BR Shetty, CEO, NMC Healthcare.

A UAE-based healthcare provider has announced the launch of thhe country's first Health Index which reveals that people believe they are fitter than they actually are.

NMC Healthcare has prescribed measures for the nation to live better following the launch of the index, which was based on an in-depth study of residents' health.

The survey showed that 35 percent of the population exercises less than once per week, and one in five smokes tobacco (of whom a quarter smoke around a pack a day).

It also showed that more than half have a BMI (body mass index) score in the overweight or obese range

Respondents also indicated that only 6 percent eat five or more portions of fruit and vegetables every day, and 82 percent drink sugary or carbonated drinks every week

The NMC Health Index is standardized on a 0-100 scale, with 100 representing the ideal well-being score, but the average health score for the UAE was 65.

This ranged from 69 for residents from the Indian sub-continent and 68 among Emirates nationals to 60 for Arab expatriates. The overall health index comprised three sub-indices, namely physical, social and emotional well-being of the individual.

Dr BR Shetty, founder and CEO of NMC Healthcare, said: "These findings will surprise many people. UAE residents generally perceive themselves to be healthier than they actually are.

"Even though, as we would expect, most respondents said that having a healthy and active lifestyle was important to them, these results show there is a lot that can be done to improve actual wellness and well-being of UAE residents.

Half of those questioned made less than five hours a week available for leisure activities, and only half said they are getting the recommended 7-8 hours' sleep per night. A further 76 percent said they have felt anxious, worried or upset at least sometime in the past month

The survey also highlights the fact that over three quarters of those questioned considered the UAE healthcare system better than in other countries, though over half still said that they would want to travel abroad for a planned operation.

NMC Healthcare urged residents to make better health choices by avoiding junk food and improving their diets by eating healthier, along with increased exercise and physical exertion through walking and sports activities, which will help them improve their health scores.

Dr Shetty added: "This study, which we aim to make a benchmark, makes an important contribution to the government's strategy for better health and well-being for the UAE's population in the future."

The study, carried out by Brunswick Insight, covered over 1,000 people of all ages and nationalities living in the UAE and measured their perceptions about their health and well-being against their actual lifestyles and behaviors.

Marwan Abedin, CEO of Dubai Healthcare City, said: "In the UAE, health providers, policy makers and stakeholders are working together to improve the nation's health and safety.

"A health index can potentially be an indicator to correct unhealthy behaviours and assess programmes that need improvement. Whether the goal is to prevent illnesses or to reduce absenteeism in schools, there should be an evaluation tool. In this the NMC Health Index is well placed."

In April 2012 NMC Healthcare became the first healthcare company from the GCC and the first from Abu Dhabi to be listed on the premium segment of the London Stock Exchange, and is part of the prestigious FTSE 250 index.

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