Diabetes Type II is reaching pandemic proportions in the Middle East and action from policy makers is needed now to stop deaths from this manageable disease, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).
The warning on January 18 from Regional Advisor of Non-Communicable Diseases for WHO Egypt, Oussama Khatib, who presented a paper at the Arab Health exhibition and conference at Dubai International Exhibition Centre (DIEC). Khatib said the region has more than 3.5 million diabetes type II sufferers. The disease is the fourth largest cause of death in the region.
He said children as young as ten were being diagnosed with the disease, the main cause being treatable obesity, coupled with physical inactivity, unhealthy diets and hypertension. In Bahrain, Kuwait and the UAE, 25-30 percent of the population is obese.
“This problem is now at pandemic proportions, and is a great burden in terms of cost. This is no longer a problem for the individual sufferer, it is a problem for society, for government, it’s a huge social challenge,” said Khatib.
He called on policy makers to introduce immediate public health programs to increase awareness of the disease, which is both preventable and manageable. But in extreme cases, Diabetes Type II can lead to blindness, organ transplants, amputations and death.
While seven regional countries have launched national diabetes programs, from Lebanon to Saudi Arabia, the doctor suggested this is not enough and a greater commitment to increasing public awareness is key to halt the rising tide of Diabetes Type II.
“Effective preventive solutions exist, but these are not being rationally or widely used in the region. While special treatment centers do exist, most of these are beyond the reach of ordinary people, and there are still people in the wider region dying of the disease for want of insulin. Mortality caused by Diabetes Type II is underestimated across the Middle East and Eastern Mediterranean,” he said.
Health professionals qualified to deal with the disease are few in the region, with Khatib suggesting there was a great and urgent need for not only diabetologists, but also diabetic educators, nutritionists and chiropodists.
“There is a great need for community based health care programs. We need to start educating children as early as possible about healthy eating and the importance of physical activity. There needs to be social education programs put in place right now in order to stop this disease,” he added.
He said 40-45 percent of the Middle East population is obese, and at current levels, 50 percent of those who are obese will develop Diabetes Type II. — (menareport.com)
© 2004 Mena Report (www.menareport.com )