The GCC's healthcare and wellness spending levels are hitting new peaks every year. But the big wins against chronic diseases are still in the future. Image Credit: Shutterstock

Consumers’ approaches to health management have undergone a radical transformation.

As chronic diseases proliferate, the Middle East witnesses rising demand for quality healthcare services, contributing to the evolution of the wellness industry. In the GCC, growth in the $9 billion consumer health market is fuelled by an increased interest in health and wellness and personalised digital services, according to IQVIA.

Further, the pandemic has highlighted the importance of preventive healthcare and increased demand for immunity-boosting products, leading to a surge in sales of vitamins and supplements in the GCC countries and driving further growth in the consumer health market. In fact, healthcare spending in the GCC is forecast to grow at a CAGR of 4.9 per cent to $99.6 billion in 2023.

The pervasiveness of medical conditions - which range from lifestyle issues such as diabetes and obesity to cancer, cardiopulmonary disease, and cardiovascular disease - has aided and abetted MENA governments and the private sector in determining where to invest in areas of excellence.

Exacerbated by lifestyle issues, diabetes mellitus, aging, alcoholism, and vitamin B deficiencies, nerve disorders or peripheral neuropathy is one such condition with a significant health and economic burden on both the individual and society, necessitating disease prevention and management strategies.

Peripheral neuropathy (PN) is a chronic clinical condition, wherein the peripheral nervous system is damaged, affecting 34–35 per cent of UAE population with diabetes. Painful diabetic peripheral neuropathy is seen in over 65 per cent of the patients with diabetes in Saudi Arabia.

Understanding belief systems

Efforts to promote nerve health awareness in the MENA region should involve collaboration between healthcare providers, policymakers, healthcare organisations and community leaders to ensure effective implementation of prevention and management strategies.

Additionally, increasing public awareness and education about neurological disorders can also help reduce the burden of these conditions.

Extensive research has demonstrated that attitudes and beliefs are important determinants of behaviour. Understanding the overarching beliefs of consumers towards nerve health holds the key to support and improve treatment of neuropathy. Consumers tend to trust healthcare providers who show a genuine interest and take the time to communicate efficiently.

Nerve health to enhance treatment

To improve consumer health outcomes, we must consider what would contribute to a deeper understanding of peripheral neuropathy. With diabetes mellitus being the leading cause, the increasing prevalence of PN is closely linked to the rise in the number of diabetic patients.

A whopping 73 million adults (of 20–79 years) were living with diabetes in the MENA region in 2021. This figure is estimated to increase to 95 million by 2030 and 136 million by 2045. According to the International Diabetes Federation, 27 million adults living with diabetes in the region are undiagnosed - or 38 per cent of the total number of adults living with diabetes in the region. An estimated 50 per cent of diabetic patients are developing Peripheral Neuropathy during their life.

The increasing frequency of diabetes is a major public health concern, and efforts are needed to improve the management of symptoms. It is important for healthcare providers to prioritise consumer-centred care and take an integrated approach transcending the physical symptoms to consider the emotional and psychological impact of neuropathy.

This is the age of the ‘aware’ and ‘interested’ consumer who expects to play an active role in their healthcare choices. A significant untapped value opportunity exists for healthcare providers - doctors, pharmacists, other practitioners - who can be viewed as advocates and dependable advisors by patients looking for advice and guidance.

Effective communication and trust between the consumer and healthcare provider can lead to better treatment outcomes and increased adherence to treatment plans, ultimately improving the overall quality of life for individuals with neuropathy. However, this transformation must come from within.

P&G Health, is committed to ongoing awareness efforts creating a platform for the entire healthcare ecosystem to convene and discuss the condition so that the community is better informed and able to implement mitigation measures.