19.5% of people in Qatar suffer from diabetes despite millions spent in prevention.
Largely driven by complications from obesity, Qatar has the unenviable position of having 19.5% of the population living with diabetes.
A report compiled by the International Diabetes Federation, indicated that Qatar has the fourteenth highest percentage of people living with diabetes and fourth highest after excluding island states.
The list is rounded off with Pakistan (30.8%), French Polynesia (25.2%), Kuwait (24.9%), Nauru (23.4%), New Caledonia (23.4%), Northern Mariana Islands (23.4%), Marshall Islands (23.0%), Mauritius (22.6%), Kiribati (22.1%), Egypt (20.9%), American Samoa (20.3%), and Tuvalu (20.3%) as leaders of the disease per capita.
The IDF reports that 10.5% of adults are expected to be living with the ailment largely caused by increased urbanisation, an ageing population, decreasing level of physical activity and increasing overweight and obesity prevalence.
“Diabetes will be a defining disease of this century,” editors of the most prestigious medical journal, Lancet wrote. “How the health community deals with diabetes in the next two decades will shape population health and life expectancy for the next 80 years. The world has failed to understand the social nature of diabetes and underestimated the true scale and threat the disease poses.”
According to Weill Cornell Medicine, there is a projected increase in the prevalence of these diseases over the next decades. A study by Laith Abu Raddad estimated that there would be 84,516 people or 29.5% of the population with diabetes by 2050.
In Qatar, Dr Raddad estimated that 57.5% of cases are caused by obesity.
What is being done in Qatar?
Qatar’s diabetes investment and cost is set to reach nearly one-third of national health expenditure by 2050. There are two ways such investments manifest: a widespread education and awareness effort and a targeted use of assessment tools.
As it stands, the Gulf state has a robust educational system that focuses on diabetic re-education and a number of campaigns usually targeting children are rolled out seasonally. Apart from organising workshops and campaigns, the Qatar Diabetes Association also has an online presence and a free mobile app used for management and prevention of the disease.
Along with educational campaigns, there has been a push for individual level interventions too.
“Based on the evidence, there is a need for increased investment in a combination of individual-level and structural public health interventions,” said Dr. Abu Raddad. “This investment holds the greatest potential to prevent the onset of diabetes and slow down the rising trends of diabetes.”
The individualised targeted assessment tool would be in the form of a diabetes risk score that would estimate an individual’s probability of diabetes in the future.
This kind of assessment takes into consideration that individual behavioural change is challenging to achieve and sustain. It supports structural interventions that involve policy facilitation to create an environment where healthier choices are easier and have a higher likelihood of making an impact.
Such intervention tailored to a Qatari population saw lifestyle management creating a projected 9.5% reduction in new diabetes cases, active commuting intervention approach like cycling and walking, averting 8.5% of new cases by 2050, and subsidy and legislative intervention approach, which included subsidies on fruits and vegetables and taxation on sugar-sweetened beverages, leading to a 7.4% reduction in new cases by 2050.
What can you expect as a diabetic?
The challenges of diabetes management stems from the fact that most people live with diabetes undiagnosed.
Speaking to Euronews, another researcher at Weill Cornell medicine, Dr Malik, explained why it is such a major concern: “The fundamental problem of type 2 diabetes in, I would say, over 70% of people, is [being] overweight, eating the wrong things, not doing enough exercise, gaining weight and as a consequence, it manifests with type 2 diabetes” said Dr Malik.
Symptoms of diabetes especially when it’s type 2 develops very slowly. The common ones include increased thirst, frequent urination, increased hunger, unintended weight loss, fatigue and blurred vision.
For those struggling with diabetes, doctors suggest two things; reduce the consumption of white carbohydrates such as pasta, potatoes, bread and rice, and also increase time between meals.