UAE spends $500m a year on diabetes 'epidemic' – experts

Disease at 'epidemic proportions' and will get worse, says Novo Nordisk CEO
UAE spends $500m a year on diabetes 'epidemic' – experts
DIABETES RATE: Experts put the rate of diabetes among adult expats in the UAE at 20 percent (ITP Images)
By Karen Leigh
Mon 13 Dec 2010 08:38 AM

Diabetes
in the Gulf is at “epidemic proportions” with the UAE government spending $500m
a year on treating the disease, the head of drug company Novo Nordisk has said.

The
rate of diabetes among the population is on the rise, with an estimated 20
percent of pregnant women in the UAE contracting transitional gestational
diabetes, said president and CEO Lars Rebien Sorenson.

“It’s
been estimated that half a million people have diabetes and it costs the
government $500mn per year,” he told Arabian Business on the sidelines of a
healthcare conference.

The
disease is at “epidemic proportions,” he said, with medical costs escalating.

“This
is going to get worse before it gets better,” he said.

Experts
put the rate of diabetes among adult expats in the UAE at 20 percent, compared
to 25 percent for adult Emiratis.

“This
is a public health challenge,” Dr Mohmood Fikree, undersecretary for the UAE
minister of health, said at a panel discussion. “We have engaged all together
for a national strategy for prevention of type 2 diabetes and the promotion of
diabetes research.”

Some
530 doctors have been trained in diabetes management in the last two years, he
said.

Diabetes
incidence across the Gulf is among the highest worldwide, a figure experts
believe is attributable in part to diet, sedentary lifestyles and a genetic
predisposition to the disease.

As
the region has become more westernized, diet has worsened and exercise has
waned, said Sorenson.

 “Economic
growth is disfavorable to health. We see a change in lifestyle where people
move from the countryside to the city, where they’re just walking from room to
room. For people to eat differently and exercise is counterintuitive – we
prefer to eat sweet stuff and do nothing,” he said.

Sorenson
said it would take 30 to 50 years before the number of UAE residents being
diagnosed with diabetes plateaus.   

 

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