Concerted effort must to prevent type 2 diabetes

DUBAI — A concerted effort made by government and private sectors will help in preventing the occurrence of type 2 diabetes among young UAE nationals and expatriates, a health expert said during the Arab Children Health Congress yesterday.

By Criselda E. Diala

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Published: Wed 7 Mar 2007, 8:44 AM

Last updated: Sun 5 Apr 2015, 3:53 AM

Dr Elham Mohammad Al Amiri, paediatric consultant at the Al Qassimi Hospital Sharjah-Ministry of Health, has expressed concern over the lack of awareness within the UAE society of the number of children afflicted with type 2 diabetes, an incurable metabolic disorder that is rapidly increasing in developed countries.

“Although there are several studies conducted worldwide on type 2 diabetes in adults, not much has been done to really assess the magnitude of the same problem in children,” she told Khaleej Times.

The unavailability of statistics on type 2 diabetes has hampered the creation of an awareness campaign to prevent the disease, Dr Al Amiri said, adding that it’s a problem that is experienced not just in the UAE, but also elsewhere in the world.

She said according to a survey conducted by the Dubai Department of Health and Medical Services among children of school age in 2005, 75 per cent of the children diagnosed with diabetes were UAE nationals.

Furthermore, about nine per cent of them were confirmed to be suffering from type 2 diabetes. Apart from this survey, Dr Al Amiri said there had been no other national-based research conducted along this line.

“One of the challenges that we face is that we don’t have relevant data to evaluate the number of children affected with type 2 diabetes. Secondly, we have various health authorities across the Emirates who are working separately on their own. What we need is to have a teamwork among all the local health authorities and the Ministry of Education,” she proposed.

The physician explained that combating the disease is not a difficult task. “Currently, there are already a number of schools that screen students’ health conditions every year. If nurses, for instance, have been given instructions to notify resident doctors or health authorities of children who are overweight or may have the symptoms associated with diabetes, the country can start developing its own database and work on related health programmes.”

Dr Al Amiri said today’s lifestyle has greatly influenced people’s health. “In the UAE, most people drive cars. We have been used to eating at fast food joints. Even children have developed a fondness for junk foods. There’s not much option.”

Apart from the health authorities, Dr Al Amiri has also called on the Ministry of Education to set regulations that promote more physical activities and healthy diet in schools.

“We have to have some kind of a legislation that will stop famous brands and small eateries from serving foods that are high in fat and carbohydrates and low in fibre. Junk foods should be made less attractive so as to re-orient the children’s food preference,” she said.

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