Some of the most experienced diabetes specialists from across the Middle East gathered in Abu Dhabi today for the start of a two day brainstorming and knowledge sharing session known as DEVOTED. Their aim is simple – to help raise awareness and reduce incidence and burden of type 2 diabetes; which is running riot in the Middle East. Out of the six countries with the world's highest prevalence of diabetes, five are members of the GCC.
The initiative is endorsed by the UAE Ministry of Health, the Emirates Diabetes Society, the Kuwait Diabetes Society, and organized by Sanofi-aventis Middle East.
Since its inception in 2007, DEVOTED has aimed to raise awareness of diabetes within the Middle-East and support the significant efforts that are currently being made to tackle this epidemic in the region. By ensuring the availability of essential information, disseminating training to enhance key diagnosis and treatment skills, and, actively encouraging debate on the topic, DEVOTED aims to empower policy makers, physicians, healthcare providers and patients to work in the best interests of the region and help lessen the impact of the diabetes epidemic.
Recently, several countries in our region have taken action at a national level to plan or implement a National Diabetes Program, and through presentations from those with firsthand experience with setting up local programs, complemented by lectures from International experts in the field of diabetes, DEVOTED hopes to inspire participants to share best practice to benefit the entire region.
In 2009, Sanofi-aventis provided sole sponsorship for funding a series of awards worth 1,800,000 Dirhams that aim to support the execution of projects submitted by experts from the Middle East countries to make a valuable contribution to research, education and management of diabetes. Sixteen gold, silver and bronze awards were given in total.
Gold winners included: Lebanon – Strategy to increase awareness & acceptance to timely insulinization; Iran – Adoption of first podiatrist training in the Middle East & Tackling the barriers to insulin initiation in the primary care setting; KSA – Diabetes Network & Forums.
In the Silver category, Lebanon – Economical burden of Diabetes complications in Lebanon & National Diabetes detection & screening program; UAE – Project for training diabetes educators in the UAE & National survey of diabetes and its complications in the UAE: Abu Dhabi phase.
Bronze award winners were made up of Iran – Evaluation of Diabetes National program: comparison of Hb A1C between 2 groups of diabetic patients with or without appropriate follow up patients, Designing Diabetes care model in people with type 1 and type 2 diabetes; UAE – National survey for estimating the prevalence of obesity and Type2 among school children, and Diabetes screening project; Jordan – Ambulatory Diabetic Foot & Educational clinic, The role of mosque and church in diabetes awareness and education; Bahrain – Effectiveness of mobile phone SMS on diabetes management; KSA – Diabetes Oasis.
Dr. Abdulrazzaq A. Madani, Consultant Endocrinologist and Head of Emirates Diabetes Society (EDS) described the think tank as a positive and practical way forward. "Any kind of program to raise awareness for diabetes is to be commended, but here we have a great meeting of medical and ethical minds who, I am sure will make a significant contribution to managing this disease, which is now affecting around one in five Emiratis.
"To adopt this approach of exploring new avenues of education is a great initiative. It's a very proactive, very hands-on and very astute way of getting the points across. It takes a lot of effort to make the information available, but it only becomes valuable when it is shared. But, he stressed, "We need more of these submissions, more involvement, more initiatives and an even greater effort to achieve better results,"
Over the two days, the assembly will review current strategies and address optimum ways for countries to implement new awareness methods, including leveraging politicians and other key opinion leaders.
Dr. Abdullah Ben Nakhi, Head of the Kuwait Diabetes Society said: "Diabetes is largely preventable and certainly manageable with the right advice, and we all have a responsibility to try to provide that advice. Nearly one in six of my countrymen are afflicted with this disease and it is not just them who suffer. This affects whole families and communities and we have to make a difference, we have to inform and educate."
As the media is known to be one of the key influencers in people’s lives, and due to the pivotal role the media plays in raising public awareness and communicating health information, a two hour seminar, dedicated solely to media professionals, was run in parallel to the DEVOTED initiative. Health editors and reporters from the Levant, Egypt and the GCC shared latest diabetes information, views and concerns, with key diabetes experts in the region.
Dr. Mohmoud Fikree, CEO for Health Policies and Head of National Board for Diabetes Control, UAE Ministry of Health, said: “It is fundamental to join forces with the media and emphasize the urgency of placing diabetes at the top of the health agenda in order to gain a better standard of care in the Middle East,” he said. “The members of the press are the knowledge base of our community; they have the power to steer our society to greener and healthy pastures. I thank them for their interest, support and enthusiasm in helping our community fight diabetes.”
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