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25 May 2011

Panel Discussion Addresses Heart Disease and Diabetes in the UAE

Major lifestyle changes associated with the rapid pace of globalization have raised urgent health issues among UAE men and women. Heart disease has been identified as a major killer in the UAE, and diabetes has approached the level of an epidemic, with over 25% of the population afflicted – the second highest prevalence of diabetes worldwide. Both diseases, which have hugely adverse effects on both duration and quality of life, and have been the subject of several public health campaigns in the UAE in recent years, were the subject of a Wednesday evening discussion at DSG.
Titled "Gender, Globalization and Health Care in the UAE: Heart Disease and Diabetes – the Silent Killers?," the lecture was part of DSG’s Gender and Public Policy Research Seminar Series and was sponsored by Julphar, a leading pharmaceutical producer in the region. The seminar brought together an elite audience of researchers, scholars, and practitioners in the healthcare sector.
The Dubai Health Authority’s Dr. Muhammad Hamed Farooqi, Director and Consultant Endocrinologist, Dubai Diabetes Centre, and Dr. Obaid Mohammed Aljassim, Consultant and Head of Cardiothoracic Surgery Department, Dubai Heart Centre, Dubai Hospital, shared their perspectives at the session, which was moderated by Dr. Mohammad Al Redha, Acting Director, Health Data and Information Analysis Department, Health Policy and Strategy Sector, and Nonresident Fellow at DSG.
The participants noted that in today’s UAE, sedentary lifestyles and unhealthy eating choices are leading to alarming incidences of obesity, diabetes and cardiovascular diseases. At the same time, the globalization, privatization and marketization of health services presents other challenges to health care systems as they work to address such public health problems.
The discussion also highlighted how cardiovascular diseases and diabetes affect men and women in the UAE differently. There are many different factors that can determine men's and women's different levels of risk; these are partly due to physiological reasons and partly to different lifestyle choices. Men and women also sometimes have different levels of knowledge of and attitudes to risk, as well as differential levels of access to preventative health care and treatment. Including a gender perspective in public health policy making is therefore essential.
Dr. Mohammad Al Redha, Nonresident Fellow at DSG, said: "Today, the major healthcare challenge is the changing lifestyles and behaviors due to the impacts of globalization. These are difficult to address because of rapid socio-economic changes, low awareness of the diseases and low compliance by patients. This negatively impacts the country’s society and economy in the long term." Emphasizing the need to have necessary mechanisms in place, he added: “This is life in the fast lane, and it’s only getting faster."
“The seminar highlights the need for changes in public policies to address the challenges and make use of the opportunities present within the healthcare sector. It will also look at ways to drive change through open discussion.” Saud Musabeh Al Neaimi, Executive Director of Commercial Affairs, Gulf Pharmaceutical Industries -Julphar said: “We are glad to be a part of the seminar, and hope to make a difference in the lives of the citizens of the UAE. We commend the efforts of DSG in creating a platform for discussion and effecting change in public policies to result in better healthcare facilities for the society. “The growing incidence of diabetes and heart diseases is a huge concern, and it is imperative for stakeholders to understand the consequences of globalization to halt the widespread increase.”
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