Abu Dhabi: Treatment of diabetes takes up 40 per cent of the UAE annual healthcare budget, a senior health official warned on Monday, saying that more than 680,000 will be diagnosed with the disease within 20 years.

Dr Mariam Mattar, Under-secretary for Primary Healthcare, Ministry of Health, said at a conference at Imperial College London Diabetes Centre (ICLDC) yesterday that 75 per cent of the UAE population are prone to serious complications with diabetes.

"The seriousness of the disease can now be equally comparable to the killer disease HIV," she added.

"We are keen to improve the public understanding about diabetes by providing statistics, have a uniform management programme from the Ministry of Health and Abu Dhabi Health Authority. We must work on lessening the economic burden faced by healthcare providers," said Mattar.

Dr Oliver Harrison, Head of Public Health at the authority, pointed out that the three main causes of death throughout the UAE are diabetes, cancer and road accidents.

"A recent research conducted in Al Ain showed that 2,455 adults between the ages of 30 and 65 have metabolic syndromes, of which 15 per cent have been diagnosed with diabetes. Fourteen per cent have diabetes and are unaware of it and 24 per cent stand as high risk and are prone to the disease. That means a total of 57 per cent either have diabetes or stand a risk in getting it," said Harrison.

He went on to say that the 14 per cent of the UAE population have already undergone mass screening to identify them from the public, the 24 per cent are undergoing weight control programmes and 100 per cent of the population need to be following a healthy lifestyle and avoiding diabetes.


"We are currently screening as much people as possible for the eradication of diabetes and creating a national metabolic syndrome registry to support infrastructure for the disease. In the future we will encourage the interaction of genes into the environment through dedicated research to cover all medical grounds without duplication of effort," he added.

Dr Maha Taysir Barakat, Consultant Endocrinologist and Medical & Research Director, ICLDC, says that great efforts have been taken to help diabetes patients whereby 6,000 blood tests have been done in 2007; two medical teams with 80 volunteers have already taken part in awareness projects with 30,000 one-to-one consultations and screening programmes for the public.

Fast facts: 40% of residents over 60 have the condition

  • It is estimated that 19.5 per cent of the UAE's population is living with diabetes.
  • More than a quarter of UAE nationals suffer from diabetes.
  • 40 per cent of residents over 60 years old have diabetes and the number is expected to increase through the coming years.
  • According to mortality statistics, diabetes mellitus constitute 75 per cent of the deaths among UAE nationals and 31 per cent among non-nationals.
  • In the Gulf region, a population of approximately 33 million has more than 3.5 million diabetes sufferers.
  • A sedentary lifestyle and bad eating habits have been blamed for the increasing prevalence of diabetes in the UAE.
  • Children as young as ten are being diagnosed with the disease, again due to obesity, coupled with physical inactivity, an unhealthy diet and hypertension.
  • There are very few health professionals qualified to deal with diabetes in the region, and there is a great and urgent need for not only 'diabetologists', but also diabetic educators, nutritionists and other medical practitioners to help complications arising out of diabetes.