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Emiratis urged to sign up for long-term health study

Long-term study aims to determine how various risk factor affect Emirati health, including the risk of developing diabetes

Image Credit: Courtesy: Cleveland Clinic
The project aims to enlist 20,000 Emiratis between the ages of 18 and 40. Picture for illustrative purpose only.
Gulf News

Abu Dhabi: A new registration and assessment centre at the Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi now allows Emiratis to contribute to a far-reaching New York University Abu Dhabi study on the UAE’s health.

The UAE Healthy Future study aims to determine how genetics and environmental factors interact to affect the health and well-being of Emiratis, and interested participants can sign up at the registration centre. They will be able to complete a questionnaire, and provide required biological samples, to researchers at the centre.

As it progresses, the project, which was launched initially in 2014, aims to enlist 20,000 Emiratis between the ages of 18 and 40 years.

“So far, we know the prevalence of chronic conditions like diabetes and cardiovascular health, but we do not yet know how various risk factors exactly impact the health of Emiratis. And it is only through a large-scale long-term cohort study that we can gain a better understanding,” Dr Raghib Ali, principal investigator of the study and director of the Public Health Research Centre at the university.

“The entire process takes about 45 minutes, and more than half of all the people we approach have been very keen to help out once they understand that the study’s findings will benefit the future health of the community,” Dr Ali added.

As reported by Gulf News in February, researchers hope to enlist all study participants, known as cohorts, by the end of 2018. They will then be reassessed in 2023, and again in 2028. The study models other large cohort studies, like the UK Biobank Study that looks into how diseases develop, and the US’ Framingham Study on cardiovascular health.

“We expect the UAE study to go on indefinitely. One of the main aims is to enlist enough healthy adults, and see how the interaction of risk factors leads to some of them developing chronic diseases, especially diabetes, over time,” Dr Ali explained.

The UAE is known to have one of the highest rates of diabetes prevalence in the world, with about 19 per cent of the adult population between the ages of 20 and 79 years affected. This translates into one million confirmed diabetics, and about 450,000 more who are as yet undiagnosed.

What is also worrying is that the incidence of cardiovascular diseases, the top killer in the country, is also continuing to rise.

“In the UK and the US, the prevalence of heart diseases has now begun to fall, so we need to know why we are not seeing a similar pattern in the UAE. In addition, cardiovascular diseases here are common among younger people, and that deserves some investigation,” Dr Ali said.

To enlist participants, there are currently four registration centres, including the new facility at the Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi, as well as at Zayed Military Hospital, the Abu Dhabi Blood Bank and Healthpoint Hospital. There are two registration centres in Al Ain, at the Al Ain Blood Bank and the UAE University.

“We have so far recruited participants in the emirate of Abu Dhabi, but hope to expand to other emirates in the future. Moreover, instead of looking for cohorts among just patients and their families, we hope other people who come to know about this important project will now visit and sign up,” the researcher said.

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