The International Diabetes Federation (IDF) estimates that the number of people living with diabetes worldwide is expected to soar from 366 million in 2011 to 552 million by 2030. This equates to about three new cases every ten seconds, or almost 10 million per year. IDF also states that 183 million people are unaware that they have diabetes.
Diabetes is a condition where the blood sugar level in the body becomes higher than normal. This happens either because the body fails to produce enough insulin to maintain a normal blood glucose level or because the cells do not respond to insulin. While type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune disorder, type 2 diabetes is largely the result of excess body weight and physical inactivity, affecting 90 per cent of diabetics around the world.
The UAE has one of the highest rates of diabetes prevalence in the world. The disease affects 19.2 per cent of the UAE population. Statistics indicate that not just the UAE, but the entire GCC region has a high risk owing to rising obesity rates and changing lifestyles.
“Diabetes is a regional challenge,” says Dr Maha Taysir Barakat, Medical and Research Director and Consultant Endocrinologist, Imperial College London Diabetes Centre (ICLDC), Abu Dhabi. “A tendency towards a sedentary lifestyle and an unhealthy diet has contributed to obesity and fuelled diabetes prevalence in the region. It is important that we stay focused on educating the region on the management and prevention of diabetes. The key to preventing type 2 diabetes is a balanced diet and regular exercise, while avoiding excess weight gain.”
Dr Atul Aundhekar, General Manager/Chief Medical Director, iCARE Clinics, Landmark Group, says, “As with most big cities in the world, residents of the UAE also often resort to an unhealthy lifestyle, which is the leading cause of type 2 diabetes. Nowadays, even children as young as five to six years of age get type 2 diabetes.”
A raft of inspiring activities and initiatives around us also demonstrate how the UAE society collectively — from government agencies and business houses to civic bodies and the public at large — is finding its own answers to the threat of diabetes. Apart from several year-round initiatives, organisations in the UAE are all set to run various programmes to mark World Diabetes Day. Started by the IDF and the World Health Organisation, the World Diabetes Day is celebrated on November 14 to mark the birthday of scientist Frederick Banting, who along with Charles Best, was instrumental in the discovery of a treatment for diabetes patients, insulin, in 1922.
The Dubai Health Authority (DHA) and the Emirates Diabetes Society will organise a walkathon today from Al Ittihad School in Mamzar to Dubai Hospital at 8.00am to generate awareness about diabetes. “The number of people with diabetes is growing worldwide,” says Dr Abdul Razzaq Ali Al Madani, CEO, Dubai Hospital, and Chairman, Emirates Diabetes Society. “By adopting a healthy lifestyle we can significantly lower the risk of developing diabetes, even in the cases of people with a family history. Our mission at DHA is not only to treat people with diabetes but also educate the public on how to prevent it. We are trying to raise awareness about the disease among children and young people so that they can also understand the importance of a healthy lifestyle in order to prevent the onset of diabetes.”
Along with government agencies, private enterprises are also involved in creating awareness about the disease in the UAE. Landmark Group’s Beat Diabetes initiative has been driving awareness for more than four years. As part of the initiative, it will conduct an annual walkathon across various countries, including the UAE, Oman, Kuwait,
India and Qatar, to mark World Diabetes Day.
Bhuvana Acharya, Head of Corporate Communications, Landmark Group, says that the company is extending grass-roots level awareness by associating with various community support groups. “In the run-up to the Beat Diabetes Walkathon on November 23, the company’s mall Oasis Centre is hosting a wellness fest revolving around a few broad themes such as diabetes awareness, weight loss and de-stressing. The mall is also scheduled to host free fitness sessions, cooking classes and health talks until November 24,” Acharya says.
Health-care management company EHL will offer free blood sugar and BMI tests for UAE residents at the Welcare Hospital, City Hospital and all EHL and Welcare clinics to mark World Diabetes Day. Medcare Hospital will also run a day-long diabetes camp at its premises today.
Dr Barakat from ICLDC says that its health awareness campaign Diabetes-Knowledge-Action was launched in 2007 to promote how a healthy lifestyle can help manage the condition. And a key pillar of the campaign is Walk for Life, a walkathon held annually to encourage a 30-minute brisk walk each day. “This year thousands of people are expected to pace up to five kilometres around Yas Marina Circuit in the sixth annual walkathon, Walk 2012, on Friday, two days after the World Diabetes Day,” she says. “More than 160,000 people have directly participated in various activities since the campaign’s launch.” n