Sweet news: Diabetes rate plunges in UAE
Dubai - Dr Rand said the UAE is combating and controlling NCDs.
The prevalence of diabetes in the UAE dropped to 11.8 per cent of the total population in 2017 from an alarming 19.3 per cent in 2013, the National Health Survey has revealed. A top official from the health ministry told Khaleej Times the figure is from preliminary results of a pan-UAE study conducted in October 2017. Dr Hussein Abdulrahman Rand, assistant undersecretary for health centres and clinics at the Ministry of Health and Prevention, said: "We will announce the full results of this survey soon, but the most notable is the drop in the rate of diabetes due to the efforts of the government."
He was speaking on the sidelines of the launch of the World Health Organisation's (WHO) independent high-level commission on NCDs (non-communicable diseases) report.
In 2013, the WHO had ranked the UAE 16th in diabetes prevalence, with 19.3 per cent of the country's population suffering from type 2 diabetes.
In 2017, the prevalence rate of the disease dropped to 17.3 per cent, according to the International Diabetes Federation (IDF). The federation said there were over a million people living with diabetes in the UAE and placed the country 15th worldwide for age-adjusted comparative prevalence.
Dr Rand said the UAE is combating and controlling NCDs, supporting the WHO's goal of reducing NCD deaths by 25 per cent by 2025.
The country has developed a clear roadmap for the prevention of NCDs, which includes development of a national plan, creation of a multi-sectoral committee, double taxes for tobacco products and soft drinks and a strategy to combat prevalence of obesity among children.
The ministry is also working with the Emirates Standardisation and Metrology Association (ESMA) to decrease sugar content in soft and sugary drinks, according to Dr Fadila Mohamed Sherif, director of health education and promotion department.
Additionally, the ministry is working on developing policies to put a blanket ban on marketing unhealthy foodstuff to children.
Dr Fadila, however, ruled out any taxation on fast foods that lead to NCDs.
"We can tax salt, sugar or transfats, but not the food itself...how do you define fast food?" she asked.
Dr Asmus Hammerich, director, NCDs and mental health, WHO, said seven out of 10 people were dying due to NCDs around the globe. "The UAE is a highly developed country and it is doing well in controlling NCDs, but it is still facing challenges in some areas such as tobacco control, physical inactivity, and diet," he said. "We consume too much sugar, transfat and salty foods.
The UAE has introduced taxes on soft and energy drinks, which are known to be effective in Australia and the UK."