Abu Dhabi: Emiratis in Dubai can now sign up for a long-term study that aims to determine the causes of non-communicable diseases.

The UAE Healthy Future Study, organised by the New York University Abu Dhabi, will begin to enroll Emiratis in Dubai, aged between 18 to 40 years, from October onwards. Researchers hope to attract 5,000 Emiratis from Dubai, and 5,000 participants from Northern Emirates, before 2021.

“We already have 7,000 participants from Abu Dhabi emirate, and we hope to increase this number to 10,000 by March 2021. With a total of 20,000 subjects, we should be able to log enough new cases of diabetes and cardiovascular disease in order to study what [contributes to the disease in this population],” Dr Raghib Ali, director of public health research at the New York University Abu Dhabi, told Gulf News.

He was speaking on the sidelines of a press conference in which the NYUAD signed a Memorandum of Understanding with Upjohn, a division of pharmaceutical giant Pfizer. Under the agreement, the company will help train researchers at the university to carry on the long-term study.

High rates of lifestyle diseases

The project, which was launched in 2017, has already revealed higher than expected rates of hypercholesteremia in Abu Dhabi participants, while the prevalence of diabetes and hypertension has been as high as expected. A 2015 pilot study also revealed that 25 per cent of all respondents smoke, including 9 per cent of women and 42 per cent of men.

It is known that non-communicable diseases account for 77 per cent of all mortalities in the UAE. Cardiovascular disease is also the top killer.

“We know that diabetes afflicts about 20 per cent of the adult population. But the biggest health database in the UAE, the Abu Dhabi Department of Health’s Weqaya, indicates that diabetes prevalence among Emiratis could be as high as 50 per cent by the age of 50,” Dr Ali said.

Without the right intervention, these statistics could lead to a real public health emergency in 10 to 15 years, the researcher said.

The study

After the recruitment of 20,000 participants is completed, researchers will work to establish a baseline for non-communicable diseases among the Emirati population. So far, there is no such data available about populations in the region.

The aim is to then analyse the data – collected from self-reports, biochemical tests and information from healthcare facilities – to determine how genetic, lifestyle and environmental factors affect the long-term health of the population.

Interested participants must register for the study by completing a questionnaire, and providing their body measurements and biological samples. In Abu Dhabi, this can be completed at the Healthpoint Hospital, the Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi or the UAE University in Al Ain, whereas a registration facility is being set up in Dubai’s Latifa Hospital for Women and Children.