Is Enough Being Done To Manage The GCC Diabetes Time Bomb? - Gulf Business
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Is Enough Being Done To Manage The GCC Diabetes Time Bomb?

Is Enough Being Done To Manage The GCC Diabetes Time Bomb?

High levels of awareness for diabetes exist among GCC nationals, but is that enough?


Dr. Audette Abdalla, head of the Diabetes Clinic at CEDARS – Jebel Ali International Hospital

Diabetes is this century’s pandemic. The ticking time bomb of this major healthcare challenge is particularly dangerous for the Middle East and GCC countries where the world’s highest prevalence of diabetes exists. The disease does not only threaten individuals but also society as a whole. Consequently, GCC countries have given this challenge a top priority on a government governmental level.

Diabetes prevention and management have been enforced in the region for many years since governments were facing skyrocketing treatment costs for their local populations who receive free medical services. Hence more and more public-private partnerships have been established to jointly deliver prevention messages and increase the availability of specialised centres and clinics.

According to recent studies, high levels of awareness for diabetes exist among GCC nationals. They know by now that rapid economic development has negative side effects: less physical activity, unhealthy diets and, eventually, obesity.

The key to understanding the gravity of diabetes is education, which is provided through public health policy intervention. Options for healthy nutrition and physical activities are accessible and convenient to make lifestyle changes easier. Diabetes screening is widely done and media has played an important role in eliminating the social stigma related to this disease.

Being diabetic is no longer considered an unchangeable destiny. The social barrier for diabetes management has been abolished, awareness has increased and medical facilities offer state-of-the-art treatment options. Now it’s up to each individual to tackle this challenge on priority basis.


Dr. E.Saneesh, research analyst, Frost & Sullivan

Governments of the GCC countries along with regional bodies like the Health Ministers’ Council for GCC states have proposed and implemented various measures for effective management of diabetes. However, efforts aiming to control the growing threat of diabetes have not effectively outpaced the increasing number of new cases and the comorbidity associated with the disease.

The International Diabetes Federation projects that almost 60 million people in the Middle East will have diabetes by 2030 from 32.6 million in 2011. Moreover, five out of six GCC countries, namely, Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Saudi Arabia and the UAE, are among the world’s top 10 nations for highest prevalence of diabetes and impaired glucose tolerance.

The increasing prevalence of comorbidities like obesity, hypertension and cardiovascular diseases has paved way for complexity of treatment; thereby causing higher mortality due to diabetes.

The current approach for diabetes control focuses primarily on awareness creation, diagnosis and treatment of the disease and this has not yielded the best results in containment.

Frost & Sullivan recommends that policy makers focus on measures to control consanguineous marriages, which increase the risk of diabetes incidence due to hereditary factors and stress the importance of including diabetes screening in pre- marital medical tests.

The GCC countries should start R&D in genetic studies to rule out diabetes or create stem cell therapies to treat diabetes. There is also a need for bringing in attitude and behaviour change among the population, which will give long-term results in controlling the disease.


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