A 4 Step Plan For Overcoming Diabetes in the Middle East
1. Highlight The Rising Prevalence And The Complications It Brings With It
Bahrain, Egypt, Kuwait, Oman, Saudi Arabia and United Arab Emiratesare all identified within the top ten countries in the world for the prevalence of diabetes.
According to the International Diabetes Association (IDA), around 26.6 million people in the MENA region had diabetes in 2010, equating to more than one in 20 members of the adult population.
As type 2 diabetes is behind this huge rise, many sufferers experience the onset of the disease young and the number of people with the disease is expected to double in the next 20 years.
However, many people in the region remain alarmingly ignorant to the risk, highlighting the need for greater education on diabetes and the complications it brings with it.
A 2010 survey by Novo Nordisk and Ipsos Emirates Health conducted in ten countries in the MENA region found only half of respondents believed it to be a severe or very severe disease. Thirty-one percent of Algerians believe diabetes is contagious, while 52 percent of respondents said diabetes could not cause strokes.
Lise Kingo, executive vice-president and chief of staffs at Novo Nordisk, commented: "The need to further educate the general public about the risk factors, complications and the severity of the condition is very clear."
2. Overcome Issues Relating To Prevention, Management And Treatment
It is the rapid economic development of the Middle East over recent years and the change in lifestyle which has brought with it which has led to the increase.
Therefore, reducing the prevalence of diabetes involves reaching into the heart of cultures in the region - addressing food, exercise and attitudes towards health - which present huge challenges that can only be overcome with the involvement of all stakeholders.
The treatment of diabetes also relies on patients following their treatment regimen at home, which research suggests does not always happen.
The Global Attitudes of Patients and Physicians in Insulin Therapy survey from Novo Nordisk found one in three patients skip doses of insulin on average three times a month, although 77 percent of physicians believe in reality this could be six doses.
According to the research, patients find it difficult to stick with the number of doses and strict timing, while some fear hypoglycaemic events, and 67 percent simply said they felt diabetes is controlling their life.
3. Develop National Strategies To Reduce Diabetes' Financial Burden
IDF figures show the region spends $5.6 billion (£4 billion)on the treatment of diabetes each year, with the highest expenses being incurred by those in the 50 to 59-year-old age group.
While this only equates to 1.5 percent of global spending, it accounts for around 14 percent of healthcare spend in the region. In Qatar, the cost is as high as $2,960 per person, figures reported in the New York Times suggest.
The exact financial burden is difficult to calculate, however, as the disease not only incurs healthcare spending, but also reduces productivity and household income, which brings with it knock on effects.
Complications associated with the disease, which include heart disease – accounting for 50 percent of deaths in diabetics, nerve disease – leading to amputation, kidney disease, and eye disease – leading to blindness all bring additional costs.
Maternity provision may also feel the burden of women with gestational diabetes, which causes mothers to have larger babies.
4. Create Networks Of Opinion Leaders To Share Knowledge And Engage Stakeholders
The need to share knowledge across the region among a range of stakeholders is increasingly being realised by authorities in the Middle East.
In October, the three-year GCC Non-Communicable Disease (NCD) Awareness Campaignwas launched to reduce cases of chronic conditions in the region.
"This will be done through changes in behaviour and practices; improving the nutritional status at the general public by urging the community to follow healthy diet; creating awareness about the importance of physical activity and promoting early detection of NCDs," Alia Hassan Al Kuwari, head of the health educationat the supreme council of health, noted.
Meanwhile, Sanofi recently launched a patent ambassador group featuring representatives from across the Middle East to promote disease management and increase prevention.
Specific targets include focussing on type 1 diabetes and the impact it particularly has on children, providing counselling for diabetes patients and their families, ensuring equal access to treatment options and boosting education about the disease.
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