Obesity remains a major health issue for individuals residing in the UAE. A study conducted by Forbes ranked UAE as number 18 on the list of the world's fattest countries, estimating 68.3% of its citizens to be overweight. This shocking statistic makes UAE one of the worst affected in a region, plagued with the highest obesity rate in the world.
While obesity remains a major health issue for individuals in UAE, are residents aware of the consequences that the ailment brings along with it? It is with the aim to resolve this issue that Middle East's premium scientific slimming institute VLCC, in association with ExHealth, UAE's specialized medical research company, has conducted a research to delve into the myths, perceptions and misconceptions associated with obesity in the region.
The special panel discussion featured healthcare professionals and medical practitioners from various disciplines that are particularly linked to obesity. It was convened as an integral part of the month-long Anti-Obesity drive by VLCC, to create awareness about the ills of obesity in the UAE.
The panelists for the day were Dr. Salah El Badawi, Public Health Advisor from the Ministry of Health and Director of the National Project for Control of Diabetes; Mr Sandeep Ahuja, Managing Director, VLCC Group; Dr.Abdulla Shehab, an Associate Professor of cardiovascular medicine with the UAE University and a Senior Consultant in Interventional Cardiology, Internal Medicine and Clinical Pharmcology in Al-Ain and Tawam Hospitals; Dr Melanie Schlatter (PhD), a Health Psychologist in Well Women Clinic, Dubai; Dr. Babita Shetty, Head of the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology with NMC Speciality Hospital, Dubai; Dr. Imad Ginawi, Diabetologist and an Endocrinologist associated with Uptodate Medicare Centre and Mr. Jeff Leach an evolutionary anthropologist in nutrition.
"The World Health Organisation (WHO) attributes obesity as one of the primary reasons for the illnesses that are prevalent at shockingly high levels in the UAE. An obese person is three times more likely to contract heart diseases and hypertension. 30% of our female clientele comes to us with complaints about PCOS due to being overweight. At VLCC we have helped control the side effects in patients with Type A diabetes by providing them with the desired weight-loss. These statistics urged us to spread awareness about the ill-effects of obesity and to encourage people to control their weight in order to reduce the risks of chronic or fatal illnesses," says Vandana Luthra, Founder & Mentor of VLCC.
"Outcome of our recent research indicates that even though the majority of the individuals agree that being overweight is considered to be unhealthy and has its negative effects on daily life, there were still certain misconceptions clearly present among the UAE public that has to be tackled in order to control the rising number of obese individuals," she added.
Sandeep Ahuja of VLCC said, "It is important to note that a majority of the residents in the region have become aware of the fact that being overweight is equal to being unhealthy. The health authorities and the medical fraternity should play a crucial role in educating people on the most-healthy and effective ways to combat obesity and thereby to direct them to the right modules of weight management and disease control. VLCC continues to pledge its solidarity with the cause and to join hands with the cross functional authorities and health organizations to control obesity and the diseases associated with it".
A combined study has been conducted among over 750 individuals and 50 healthcare professionals in the region, showing a disparity in the way the public views obesity as opposed to medical professionals' advice. While 80% of the respondents were aware that overweight people are unhealthy and agreed that obesity negatively impacted daily lives, they were relatively unaware of the importance of seeking professional help to reduce weight. Most individuals are of the belief that losing weight requires major lifestyle changes, which in turn discourages them to opt for expert advice. Healthcare professionals, on the other hand, highlighted the fact that moderate adaptations to diet and workout regimes can also play an important role in reducing weight – a belief that VLCC strongly advocates for its patrons as well.
Research has shown that most individuals believe that they can undergo weight loss programmes by themselves without opting for professional help. Healthcare professionals strongly disagree with this school of thought and would categorically advise and urge residents to utilize the help of qualified and licensed professionals who could assure weight loss without adverse side effects and provide expert knowledge about leading a healthy lifestyle.
The results of this research have clearly indicated that members of the UAE public need to be better informed on obesity and its harmful effects. They are also unaware of effective practices to lose weight sustainably, and ways of incorporating these methods into their everyday lifestyle. Further education and awareness can bring down the staggering rates of obesity, and the adversities and health problems that come with it to ensure that the population of UAE remains healthy and prosperous.
A decade ago, VLCC took the first step to put up a united fight against the scourge of Obesity. With the active involvement of the medical fraternity, VLCC designated November 26th as Anti-Obesity Day which is observed every year in the Middle East and in India.
VLCC drives a mission led awareness campaign to promote its Anti-Obesity mantra. The underlying message is that the individuals can choose wellness by instilling discipline into their lifestyle and enjoy its benefits. VLCC leads the effort with a series of initiatives that include public service messages using health camps, workshops, mass counseling, mass media, special literature, and the like. The campaign, with a focus on dietary recommendations, physical activity patterns and behavior modifications, helps create awareness about developing healthy habits and an active lifestyle.
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