35% of diabetes cases in UAE undiagnosed

ABU DHABI — About 35 per cent of the diabetes cases in the UAE remain undiagnosed, which increase the medical costs and complications arising out of a largely preventable disease, according to a recent study report released as part of the World Health Care Congress here on Tuesday.

By Olivia Olarte

Published: Thu 9 Dec 2010, 9:24 PM

Last updated: Thu 2 Apr 2015, 11:18 AM

The study conducted by the UnitedHealth Group under the title, ‘Diabetes in the United Arab Emirates: Crisis or Opportunity?’, revealed that if the current trend continues over the next decade, this health burden will amount to some $8.52 billion (Dh31.27b).

About 32 per cent of the UAE’s adult population (ages 20-79) or one in every three residents, both including Emiratis and expatriates, may have diabetes or pre-diabetes by 2020, the report released by the international health and well-being company said.

Type 2 diabetes is a common, chronic and progressive disease that is frequently disabling and potentially deadly, and can shorten life expectancy by as much as 15 years. If left uncontrolled, type 2 diabetes can lead to severe complications, such as heart and kidney disease, nerve damage, blindness and limb amputation.

In the UAE, the prevalence of type 2 diabetes is among the highest in the world. About 13 per cent or one in eight of the adult population in the UAE are diabetic, more than double the global average of 6.4 per cent.

According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), about 73 per cent of adult women and 66 per cent of men in the UAE weigh more than recommended by physicians.

Medical cost due to diabetes and prediabetes in the UAE is forecasted to rise to an annual $1.04 billion (Dh5.14 billion) by 2020, representing a 58 per cent increase from an estimated $657 million (Dh2.41 billion) in 2010, according to the report.

“These new estimates highlight the urgent need for further action to stem the oncoming tidal wave of diabetes-related illness and related costs in the UAE,” said Simon Stevens, executive vice-president, UnitedHealth Group and president of its Global Health division.

This means establishing community-based initiatives in collaboration with government public health agencies, non-profit organisations and the private sector that can help to build public awareness about diabetes and its risk factors, modernising health care systems’ ability to use sophisticated data analytics, new technology, and innovative care models that would engage consumers in new ways.

In order to prevent, delay the onset and control diabetes, the report offers three solutions -screening and diagnosis, intervention and prevention, and disease management control.

“We need to do everything we can to help people prevent themselves and their families from getting diabetes. This means we have to strengthen the primary care and we’ll also have to look at giving incentives, some could be financial or non-financial, to make those lifestyle changes,” Stevens told Khaleej Times on the sidelines of the conference.

“The good news is even quite a small reduction in your body weight by five to seven per cent might be able to reduce your likelihood of getting diabetes by 58 per cent, so that is a huge impact that can be had,” he added.

Stevens also suggested “reconceptualising the role of insurance (companies) from passive to take on an active role” through coordinating with the local health authorities in developing diabetes awareness programmes, as well as, in reduction of insurance premiums for diabetics.

Worldwide, more than 285 million people have diabetes. Without intervention that figure is expected to climb to 438 million people within 20 years.


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