High prevalence of NCDs among Indian workers in GCC

Sajila Saseendran/Dubai
Filed on February 25, 2016 | Last updated on February 25, 2016 at 09.28 am
High prevalence of NCDs among Indian workers in GCC
(Representational image)

(File photo)

The study attempted to compare the prevalence of risk factors of Non Communicable Diseases (NCDs) among equal number of migrant and resident Indians in the district of Malappuram.

A study by an Indian doctor has found high prevalence of hypertension, diabetes, overweight and abdominal obesity among migrant Indian workers in the GCC.

Recently published in an indexed journal (Journal of Immigrant and Minority Health), the research was done by Dr. Shamim Begam. N, a public health research scholar at Sree Chitra Tirunal Institute for Medical Sciences and Technology in India.

The Institute is a Centre of Excellence for Public Health Training under the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, government of India, and is located in the south Indian state of Kerala, where the highest number of Indian expatriates in the Gulf comes from.

"I conducted the study from June to December 2013 among 400 adults between 25 to 65 years of age," Dr. Shamim, who currently works with Al Zora Medical Centre in Ajman  told Khaleej Times.

The study attempted to compare the prevalence of risk factors of Non Communicable Diseases (NCDs) among equal number of migrant and resident Indians in the district of Malappuram. The study used the World Health Organization (WHO)'s STEPS questionnaire, which includes physical and biochemical measurements as well, for the first time in the community.

Dr. Shamim said she chose Malappuram district because it has one of the highest numbers of Gulf migrants from Kerala. "A lot of migrants from Kerala is from Malappuram and most of the households there have either a migrant or a migrant returnee."

"There is a high prevalence of hypertension, dyslipidemia, diabetes and risk factors among Gulf migrant workers according to observations done by practicing doctors in the community.Understanding the pattern of these diseases and risk factors among the Gulf migrants was felt essential to address the health issues of this population," she said.

High prevalence of NCDs among Indian workers in GCC (

Significantly higher risks

The study found that the burden of NCD risk factors-- i.e. hypertension, diabetes, overweight and abdominal obesity --is significantly higher among the Gulf migrant workers compared to non-migrant workers. 

Gulf migrants were found three times at higher risk for hypertension and abdominal obesity compared to resident workers. Among Gulf migrants, prevalence of risk factors increased with an increase in the duration of migration.

Occupation related risk factors such as daily working hours, increased number of working days per week, and lack of adequate sleep were found to be high among migrants compared to non-migrants, making them vulnerable to NCDs and risk factors.

"High prevalence of passive smoking and unhealthy diet among Gulf migrant workers have to be considered as important issues. Treatment and control of hypertension is very low among Gulf migrants compared to non-migrants. High cost of medical care in Gulf countries, lack of provision for medical care from the employers in many places and inadequate time due to long working hours were the factors understood behind this," said Dr. Shamim.

She said these issues have to be addressed by the authorities with due importance.

'Workers' health ignored' 

"Gulf migrants are ignored by both government and health system in spite of repeated calls from the WHO about the growing threat of NCDs in developing countries. None of the Indian national programmes or policies addresses these vulnerable groups of migrants who spend their most productive life time in Gulf countries, leaving behind their families, and contribute in a large extend to our economy," she pointed out. 

"Prevention and treatment of NCDs and risk factors can reduce the morbidity and mortality among this group considerably. A comprehensive approach is necessary for this," she said, calling for better health awareness among the workers and continuous monitoring of their health conditions by authorities.

"Policy level decisions have to be made separately for addressing the health issues of this vulnerable group who spends their productive life time in foreign counties contributing to the state and national economy in India," she added.


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