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)