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‘Hesitant’ Emiratis delay plan to study diabetes

‘Hesitant’ Emiratis delay plan to study diabetes

‘Calorie intoxication’ among expatriates leading to a ‘diabetes explosion’

By Asma Ali Zain/deputy Chief Reporter

Published: Tue 16 Jun 2015, 11:44 PM

Last updated: Wed 8 Jul 2015, 3:10 PM

Picture courtesy: Visualsunlimited/Corbisimages

Dubai - A national plan to fight the high incidence of diabetes in the UAE is facing delays because Emiratis are hesitant to take part in crucial studies that will pave the way for long- and short-term government strategies.

The government has set a target to reduce the incidence of diabetes from the current 19 per cent to 16.4 per cent by 2021 and related studies are the starting point of any future plans that officials will chalk out to meet their targets.

Diabetes explosion

> 19 - 25% of the UAE nationals are diabetic

> One in four of all residents in the UAE are diabetic

> 35% of the UAE population is at risk of becoming diabetic in the next 10 years

> Locals with diabetes could be higher than expats with the condition

Present figures show 19 - 25 per cent of the UAE nationals and one in four of all residents in the UAE are diabetic. Estimates also say that 35 per cent of the UAE population is at risk of becoming diabetic in the next 10 years.

An ongoing study that has already taken samples and interviews of 3,000 expats and was hoping to include 3,000 Emiratis is short of 1,000 Emiratis for it to be completed.

The UAE National Diabetes and Lifestyle Survey — said to be the largest ever study being undertaken in the UAE — is expected to be completed by the end of the year. “We are having some difficulty meeting the required sample number for the study,” said Professor Nabil Sulaiman, head of Family and Community Medicine and Behavioural Sciences at the University of Sharjah.

He is currently heading the research team for the study that also involves the Ministry of Health.

“Our society is not very responsive to research,” he said. “Besides, our study includes a blood test after an eight-hour fasting period ... it is difficult to get people to agree to this point.”

Samples from expats were comparatively easier to get because of the methodology which included acquiring them from people who visited medical fitness centres while applying for residence visas or renewals.

“The difference is understandable because the number of expats is more than that of Emiratis,” he said. “But we are on it and will be able to come up with ways to convince Emiratis to take part.”

He said that even if 30 per cent of Emiratis were recruited in the study, it would be acceptable.

The study includes Emiratis from Dubai and the Northern Emirates only.

Risk factors

Another pilot study to find diabetes risk factors being carried out by Dubai Health Authority (DHA) has been able to interview only 114 of the total 1,000 nationals needed.

“We are having trouble getting samples ... At least another 900 nationals are still needed to complete the study,” said Dr Fatheya Al Awadhi, vice-president of Emirates Diabetes Association and head of internal medicine and consultant endocrinologist at the Dubai Hospital.

Among the other challenges discussed during a meeting held by the joint committee on Sunday at the Emirates Diabetes Society included lack of funds, manpower and proper media awareness.

The initial results of the first phase of the UAE National Diabetes and Lifestyle Survey were revealed to Khaleej Times recently.

The second phase of the two-year long study will start next month and will include 3,500 Emiratis from Dubai and the Northern Emirates.

As per the initial results of the survey, people in the UAE risk becoming diabetic in the next 10 years. ‘Calorie intoxication’ among expatriates in the UAE is leading to a diabetes explosion, the study found.

“Judging from the initial results, we can say that despite the poor lifestyle adopted by expatriates in the UAE, locals with diabetes could be ... higher than expats (with the condition),” said Professor Nabil in an earlier interview. “We start eating more than we need, hence the ‘calorie intoxication’, and we exercise less.”


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