Sunday, December 5, 2010

40% at risk of diabetes in the MENA region

The Gulf Today, 5 Dec 2010

ABOUT 40 per cent of people across the Middle East and Northern Africa (MENA) region are at a high risk of developing diabetes, a latest survey revealed.
The study disclosed that the prevalence figures in the region are among the highest in the world with 18.7 per cent in the UAE, 16.8 per cent in KSA, 11.4 per cent in Egypt, 10.2 per cent in Iraq and 10.1 per cent in Jordan.
Despite a notable awareness level of the scale of the disease, only one out of two respondents considers diabetes to be a severe or a very severe disease, revealed the study directed by global healthcare establishment Novo Nordisk.
The survey, carried out in October in collaboration with healthcare research firm IPSOS Emirates Health, indicated that incidences of diabetes have been escalating across the region’s 10 countries.
The study interviewed over 3,000 from Algeria, Egypt, Iran, Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon, Morocco, Saudi Arabia, Tunisia and the UAE. According to officials, the ignorance on the causes and risk factors that the condition poses is “worrying.”
Lise Kingo, executive vice president and chief of staffs at Novo Nordisk A/S, said that about 54 per cent of people in Egypt, 52 percent in KSA, 45 per cent in Lebanon, 44 per cent in Iraq and 42 per cent in the UAE, are at risk of developing diabetes.
“The respondents, representing the demographic and socio-economic profile in each country, were quizzed based on a risk score methodology. About 62 per cent of them answered that they are somewhat likely or very likely to develop diabetes in the future,” he added.
“About 37 per cent of those at risk of developing diabetes have never been screened for diabetes nor had a blood sugar measurement, while 40 per cent of those at risk of developing diabetes consider the disease as a condition that can be severe but not always,” said Kingo.
Professor Tawfik Bin Ahmed Khoja, director general of the GCC Health Ministers’ Council, said that the study revealed vital information on the gaps and challenges that region needs to face together to improve the awareness, detection and treatment of diabetes.
He called for the need to align and unify the fight against diabetes in the GCC countries, as six countries in the region are among the world’s 10 highest for diabetes prevalence. The countries include the UAE along with Bahrain, Egypt, Kuwait, Oman, and KSA.
According to Kingo, “The main causes of the rapid increase of the number of people with diabetes listed by respondents are bad eating habits (44 per cent) and stress (39 per cent) -the latter not being a leading cause of diabetes in comparison with obesity, congenital factors or age.”
Moreover, the myths about diabetes still remain common, he pointed out. 68 per cent of respondents in the UAE answered that they believe that a child with diabetes cannot participate in sports, with differing responses to the question in other parts of the region.
Additionally, in Egypt, more than half of respondents were not aware that diabetes can cause blindness. “In reality, diabetes is a leading cause of vision loss in adults of working age (20 to 65 years) in industrialised countries. More than 2.5 million people worldwide are affected by diabetes-related blindness,” indicated the survey.
“In Iran and the UAE, 37 per cent and 32 per cent respectively are not aware that diabetes can lead to amputations. In fact, people with diabetes are 15 to 40 times more likely to require lower-limb amputation. Diabetes is the most common cause of non-accident-related amputation,” it added.
The study also said that 89 per cent of respondents in Iran, 76 per cent in Morocco, 71 per cent in Algeria, 60 per cent in Iraq and 54 per cent in Egypt consider that diabetes cannot cause stroke.  In fact, strokes are 200 per cent more likely in people with diabetes and hypertension as in those with hypertension alone.
Kingo pointed out the apparent need to further educate the general public about the risk factors, complications and the severity of the diabetes. “We hope that the initiative will inspire authorities to tackle this issue. Early detection of diabetes, prevention and education can only tackle this issue helping the people lead longer and healthier lives, and also supporting the health systems save substantial costs,” he noted.
“Diabetes is sweeping the region affecting an estimated 26.6 million people today, imposing overwhelming demands on the region’s healthcare institutions and excessive financial burdens on its governments.”
“The pandemic is the one of the greatest healthcare challenges being faced by the region currently, as a consequence of rapid economic boom, changing diet and sedentary lifestyles.”
“As alarming as this picture is, the number of people with diabetes is expected to double to 51.7 million people by 2030. The toll this will take on the MENA region will be enormous in both human and financial terms,” he added.
(Pic used for illustrative purpose)

Friday, December 3, 2010

UAE National Day brings Facebook followers face-to-face

3 Dec 2010, The Gulf Today

AS they sat behind the scenes or chatted in front of their screens, the bonds blossomed. Coming from different backgrounds of life, they met online, shared the warmth of friendship and conversed about everything under the sun, yet remained unseen for years.
From the active socialising platform of Facebook, a group of expatriate cyber-geeks landed on the meadows of Dubai’s Zabeel Park on the occasion of the UAE’s 39th National Day and met their longtime online friends face-to-face for the first time.
Around 200 dynamic FB members, hailing from the South Indian state of Kerala and working in different parts of the UAE, congregated in Dubai to celebrate the occasion of their foster nation’s anniversary.
Compared to other mass celebration modes, the FB meet turned out to be a first-of-its-kind approach, in which the cyber socials assembled to share their spirits and passion, symbolising the unity of the Emirates, according to the organisers.
They declared that the Keralite Facebook Group of the Emirates will celebrate its anniversary on the occasion of the UAE National Day to share feelings of patriotism and sense of belonging and loyalty to the country.
Excited to be present at the FB gathering, a former UAE resident of ten years, Murali Vettath who later moved to the UK, landed in Dubai on the early hours of the National Day to express his love for the country that boosted the first stage of his professional life.
Pramod Kadavil Pushkaran, a Fujairah resident and Facebook social, presented the concept of the FB’s expatriate group in the UAE.
“Apart from engaging in mere entertainments and redundant chats on Facebook, the group will inspire the members to develop social responsibility, focusing on community empowering activities through different creative channels,” he indicated.
IT professional Iqbal Kanjiramukku, who took initial efforts to organise the FB meet, said that the mini meet on the national day would be added as a golden leaf to the history of the UAE and to the vibrant track record of Facebook.
“Among the enthusiasts, there were writers, poets, thinkers, professionals, philanthropists, social activists, members of political and religion organisations, and ordinary members too,” he added.
“But no place has been provided to promote any particular ideology or sect and class of people. The group will work on the humanitarian ground, inspired by the increasing strength of the social networking world,” pointed out James Varghese, an investment professional and creator of 4,700 member Malayalanatu FB page.
“The primary mission is to launch activities to alleviate woes of thousands of expats residing in the UAE, by effectively utilising the power of Facebook networking,” he noted.
Ahamed Maruthiyur, another FB enthusiast, said that a 25-member committee has been formed for the Keralite Facebook Group of the Emirates with executive members representing each Emirate. 
“The group will generate funds through individual contributions and small level sponsorships to support unemployed, medically-needed, and financially failed expatriates respectively to find them jobs, arrange better treatments and send helpless people back home,” he elaborated.
Ravindran Nair, a social activist and energetic FB member from Abu Dhabi, said the function of the group will be transparent in extending charities and funding for it. The charity will be extended upon cross-checking genuine applications to the committee. 
“This is a debut meeting at which some 200 members got together. More members will be mobilised in future, as strategies have been planned to spread the message for humanitarian activities through effective communication campaigns,” he indicated.
Liyakathali Chavakad, a Dubai Hospital employee who keenly socialises on FB, opined that the group is expected to be uplifting cultural values among the members, especially in the approach of interactions among the cyber socials.

“The gathering and the formation of the group will help the users spend their time fruitfully for social causes and promotion of creative ideas, by expressing mutual respect and love,” he added.
(Pics supplied)