Abu Dhabi: The UAE Minister of Health signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) yesterday with a pharmaceutical company to help cut down the high diabetes rate, of 25 per cent, among Emiratis living in the UAE.

With UAE having the second highest number of people suffering from diabetes in the world, the Minister of Health, Humaid Al Qutami, signed a three year agreement with Sanofi-Aventis pharmaceuticals Gulf to launch an extensive three-year plan to help lower the alarming prevalence rates of diabetes and atherothrombosis - a blood vessel-related disease that gradually leads to stroke, heart attack and Peripheral Artery Disease (PAD) - in the UAE.

"The core objective of this initiative is to enhance awareness levels through education and awareness campaigns in an attempt to reduce disease and incidence levels and this will not happen over night, it will take the ministry up to ten years to reach its goals with battling diabetes across the UAE and this is among our top priorities," said the health minister.

He added that the condition had resulted in social, health and healthcare budget repercussions for the ministry and the UAE as a whole.

The three year campaign targets patients, physicians and the public.

General Manager of Sanofi-Aventis pharmaceuticals Gulf, Jean-Marc Voissier said that a pilot project for ten different schools across the UAE would be conducted as a startup for children in the six to 14-year age group, with a focus to helping children with weight related issues.

"We will continue to follow up on school children's conditions and make sure they stay healthy. We want children to change their lifestyles and encourage them to take part in more physical activities. We will start with a pilot project to help us predict how many diabetic risk factors are prevalent among kids," said Voissier.

He added that the upcoming campaign would focus on four things - education, prevention, awareness and price adjustment for diabetic related medicines.

The ministry labelled the concept of targeting children, 'The Right Beginning'. It will focus on reducing cardio-metabolic risk factors in upcoming generations by promoting a healthier lifestyle among school children, through regular screening, accurate filing and assessment of medical records for each child.

The health ministry will provide private and public physicians with continuous medical education (CME) regarding diagnosis and treatment of diabetes.