Taking a bite out of diabetes: How Saudi Arabia and neighbors are fighting back against the disease

Taking a bite out of diabetes: How Saudi Arabia and neighbors are fighting back against the disease
Experts say the number of people living with diabetes could more than double by 2045. (Shutterstock)
Updated 18 November 2018

Taking a bite out of diabetes: How Saudi Arabia and neighbors are fighting back against the disease

Taking a bite out of diabetes: How Saudi Arabia and neighbors are fighting back against the disease
  • As the region faces a health epidemic, the Kingdom is fighting the disease with a diet of awareness and early prevention
  • ‘The target is to have a zero percent rise in deaths due to diabetes by 2025’

Countries across the Gulf need to implement strict protocols to restrict access to junk food, encourage healthier lifestyles and ensure diabetics are diagnosed in the early stages of the disease or the number of people in the region living with the condition could more than double by 2045, experts say.

Almost 4 million people in Saudi Arabia are living with diabetes while countries in the Middle East and North Africa top worldwide charts when it comes to allocating health care budgets to treat the soaring number of people suffering from the chronic disease.

Global experts have hailed measures in the Kingdom — including taxing sugary drinks, fitness initiatives and focusing on preventative care — to stem the rising epidemic. However, Prof. Adel El-Sayed of the International Diabetes Federation (IDF), Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region, said that “there is a lack of urgency to reverse the trend” across the wider region.

“They absolutely need to improve diabetes prevention programs if they are to avoid a future health crisis,” said El-Sayed, adding that “diabetes estimates have been on the rise for several decades.”

The latest IDF estimates indicate that 39 million adults (20-79 years) are living with diabetes in the MENA region. Specifically in Saudi Arabia, 3.8 million adults are estimated by the IDF to be living with diabetes, while 1.2 million adults are estimated to have diabetes in the UAE.

El-Sayed said that Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries such as Saudi Arabia (17.7 percent) and the UAE (17.3 percent) have significantly higher diabetes prevalence rates than global (8.8 percent) and regional (10.8 percent) rates. Last year there were 14,665 diabetes-related deaths in Saudi Arabia.

El-Sayed praised work done by the Kingdom but stressed the need for further work both in the country and across the wider region. “The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is focusing on strengthening health care by improving the access to care at the primary health-care centers. Screening for non-communicable diseases including diabetes management is a must.

“It is a big task and more needs to be done very aggressively. The target is to have a zero percent rise in deaths due to diabetes by 2025.”

According to the IDF, about 425 million people worldwide have diabetes and more than 39 million of those live in the MENA region. By 2045, this number will rise to 82 million. About 90 percent of cases are Type 2 diabetes, which is largely preventable through regular physical activity and a healthy and balanced diet.

In 2014, worldwide governments committed to attempt to reduce the rise in diabetes to zero percent following recommendations by the World Health Organization (WHO). As yet, just five countries are on track to achieve this goal.

“Not enough is being done to implement cost-effective programs and policies to prevent Type 2 diabetes,” said El-Sayed. “Improving awareness, investing in education to promote prevention, early diagnosis and treatment, and ensuring affordable access to medication and care are critical to controlling the epidemic.”

Diabetes can cause heart and kidney disease, strokes, leg amputation, blindness and mental diseases such as depression. 

“Over the past decade, the evolution in global health-care expenditure on diabetes in adults (20-79 years) has been tremendous, growing from $232 billion in 2007 to $727 billion in 2017,” said El-Sayed. This economic burden is projected to grow by 7 percent by 2045. “This is a very conservative estimate as it assumes that the average expenditure per person will remain constant,” said El- Sayed. The IDF MENA region has the highest percentage (17 percent) of health-care budget allocated to diabetes of all the IDF regions.”

El-Sayed praised initiatives in the Kingdom such as measures introduced last June when Saudi Arabia became the first GCC country to impose an excise tax at 100 percent on tobacco products and energy drinks, and 50 percent on soft drinks.

Kamil M. Salamah, secretary- general of the Saudi Diabetes and Endocrine Association (SDEA), said that the GCC, as well as Saudi Arabia, are among the worst globally in terms of prevalence of diabetes. “Prevalence is on the rise — at an average approximating 24 percent and rising with the exception of Oman. Unless strict measures are enacted, the prevalence is expected to reach 35 percent, if not higher.” Despite the figures, there are many GCC residents in Saudi Arabia and the wider GCC who have “hidden diabetes” and are failing to be diagnosed or treated, said Salamah.

“Early diagnosis is very important because either it can be reversed to normal by adopting healthy lifestyles or managed properly to prevent complications, which are very costly.”

Salamah said that steps have already been taken in Saudi Arabia and the wider GCC to encourage personal responsibility for health care to stem the rising epidemic. Measures include implementing front-of-pack food labelling and wide-ranging fitness initiatives.

“In addition, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has officially kicked off various female sports initiatives, while the General Sports Authority has been created to help both genders in their physical activities needs and initiatives.”




About 90 percent of cases are Type 2 diabetes, which is largely preventable through regular physical activity and a healthy and balanced diet. (Shutterstock)

Salamah said that the Saudi Food and Drug Administration (SFDA) will also impose strict criteria on the healthy content of foods and beverages with clear labelling of sugar, salt, fats, fiber etc and penalties for violation will be enforced.

“Additionally, the Kingdom’s Ministry of Health has committed to, and started, the transformation of health care by focusing on primary health-care centers to be the real ‘access to care’ — where the focus is the prevention of non-communicable diseases (NCDs), which includes diabetes, hypertension, obesity and cardiovascular diseases. These centers will ensure continuity of care and management of disease to prevent complications. This is a very core part of the transformation.”

Soaring rates of diabetes come with a high price tag.

“Economically, diabetes costs no less than 35 percent of the annual budget of the Ministry of Health (in Saudi Arabia); and this is just the cost of management, not including the complications,” said Salamah.

He said initiatives that could curb the prevalence of diabetes include introducing zero tolerance to sugar-sweetened drinks in schools, colleges and universities; heavily taxing food with a high sugar content; better integration
of physical activity in schoolcurriculums; holding sports championships in schools and universities; developing “exercise-friendly cities” where families can exercise and walk; and encouraging companies to develop green environments for their employees.

More controversial tactics, he said, could include banning fast-food chains and late-night takeaway deliveries after 7pm to prevent unhealthy late-night eating and banning media advertisements of unhealthy foods and beverages.

“The Kingdom’s goal is to halt the rise of diabetes by 2030 to level the curve,” he said. “That would be a remarkable achievement.”

Dr. Shaimaa Mashal, a specialist in internal medicine at the UAE’s Bareen International Hospital, said that the prevalence of diabetes is on a “rapid upsurge” in the region.

“It is extremely worrying that the MENA region contains five of the top 10 countries with the highest prevalence of diabetes worldwide. There is an urgent need for epidemiological initiatives to address this problem,” she said.

“Diabetes is placing huge economic strain on health providers, governments and insurers — but with early detection and disease management, as well as strong prevention programs, that cost can be reduced. In some cases, with careful and often drastic lifestyle alterations, Type 2 diabetes can even be reversed.”

Dr. Fathi Yousef Al-Giurani, a consultant in internal medicine at the UAE’s Medeor 24x7, said that diabetes has risen about tenfold in the past three decades in Saudi Arabia.

“The health burden due to diabetes in Saudi Arabia is predicted to rise to very high levels unless a wide-ranging epidemic control program begins, with a great emphasis on advocating a healthy diet, including exercise and active lifestyles, and weight control,” warned Al-Giurani. “However, both increasing population and a greater understanding of the condition among the communities have also contributed to the increase in patients diagnosed with diabetes.”


Saudi Arabia warns against travel to destinations on ban list amid COVID-19

Saudi Arabia warns against travel to destinations on ban list amid COVID-19
Updated 27 July 2021

Saudi Arabia warns against travel to destinations on ban list amid COVID-19

Saudi Arabia warns against travel to destinations on ban list amid COVID-19

DUBAI: The Saudi Arabian government has warned against travel to destinations on the Kingdom’s ban list amid COVID-19.

The Interior Ministry said citizens who have traveled to banned countries will be barred from traveling for three years, state news agency SPA reported.

Saudi citizens have been earlier prohibited from traveling to Indonesia over coronavirus disease concerns. Saudi citizens currently in the Asian nation have been told to exercise caution, and stay away from areas with high infection rates.

Saudi authorities have also banned travel, without prior permission, to and from the UAE, Ethiopia and Vietnam, over concerns about the spread of more-infectious variants of the coronavirus.

– More to follow –


Saudi FM arrives in Islamabad, discuses with Pakistani counterpart bilateral relations

Saudi FM arrives in Islamabad, discuses with Pakistani counterpart bilateral relations
Updated 27 July 2021

Saudi FM arrives in Islamabad, discuses with Pakistani counterpart bilateral relations

Saudi FM arrives in Islamabad, discuses with Pakistani counterpart bilateral relations

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s foreign minister, Prince Faisal bin Farhan Al-Saud, arrived in Islamabad on an official visit that Pakistan said provided a ‘timely opportunity’ to deepen bilateral cooperation. 

This will be Prince Faisal’s second state visit to Pakistan in a year. He was last in Islamabad in December 2020.
The foreign office has said the Saudi foreign minister was visiting Pakistan on the invitation of Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi.
The visit by the Saudi FM “holds significance” in the backdrop of Prime Minister Imran Khan and Qureshi’s visit to Saudi Arabia in May 2021, the foreign office said on Twitter, adding:
“It will provide a timely opportunity to review progress in bilateral coop. in line with vision of the leadership of the two countries.”

“The visit of the Foreign Minister of Saudi Arabia will further strengthen the ongoing positive momentum in high-level contacts and deepen bilateral cooperation in various fields,” the foreign office said in a separate statement, saying Prince Faisal and the Pakistani foreign minister would meet at the Foreign Ministry shortly.
“After the meeting between the two Foreign Ministers, there will be delegation level talks between Pakistan and Saudi Arabia. In addition to all aspects of bilateral relations, important regional and global issues will be discussed during the talks,” the foreign office said. “The Saudi Foreign Minister will also meet with senior government officials during his visit.”
Prior to the arrival of the Saudi foreign minister, senior delegation-level talks were held in Pakistan between officials of the two nations.
“Key focus was on Saudi-Pak Supreme Coordination Council, highest level platform to provide strategic direction to bilateral ties,” the foreign office said.

Related


US condemns latest Houthi attacks on Saudi Arabia, calls for Iran-backed group to return to negotiations

US condemns latest Houthi attacks on Saudi Arabia, calls for Iran-backed group to return to negotiations
Updated 27 July 2021

US condemns latest Houthi attacks on Saudi Arabia, calls for Iran-backed group to return to negotiations

US condemns latest Houthi attacks on Saudi Arabia, calls for Iran-backed group to return to negotiations
  • ‘We condemn the Houthi attacks on Saudi Arabia following the calm over Eid Al-Adha’
  • ‘Time to return to negotiations and end the conflict’

DUBAI: The US has condemned the latest Houthi attack against Saudi Arabia as the Iran-backed group targeting the Kingdom’s southern region with a ballistic missile and three explosive-laden drones.

The US State Department’s Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs also called for the Houthis to cease its military actions and commit to a ceasefire that would end the conflict in Yemen.

“We condemn the Houthi attacks on Saudi Arabia following the calm over Eid Al-Adha. The Houthis must stop their destabilizing actions and commit to an immediate, comprehensive ceasefire to help end the Yemen war. Time to return to negotiations and end the conflict,” the US government agency posted on Twitter.

Tim Lenderking, the US special envoy for Yemen, earlier emphasized the importance of resolving the conflict in the war-torn country.

“The US is in this effort to help Yemen truly turn the corner toward peace and security. A ceasefire is only one step. We must continue to build from there,” the envoy said during one of the forums on Middle Eastern security.

Yemeni government troops and allied tribesmen, backed by Arab coalition jets, on Sunday repelled the “biggest and most fierce” Houthi assault of Marib since February.

More than 200 Houthi militants were killed in clashes during recent days or in Arab coalition strikes during recent days, a Yemeni army commander said.


Saudi online platforms bridge gap between creatives, inquisitive minds

 These two platforms helped local entrepreneurs to work in the creative sector to achieve their goals. This will ultimately contribute to the Kingdom’s goals for the private sector. (Supplied)
These two platforms helped local entrepreneurs to work in the creative sector to achieve their goals. This will ultimately contribute to the Kingdom’s goals for the private sector. (Supplied)
Updated 27 July 2021

Saudi online platforms bridge gap between creatives, inquisitive minds

 These two platforms helped local entrepreneurs to work in the creative sector to achieve their goals. This will ultimately contribute to the Kingdom’s goals for the private sector. (Supplied)
  • Offering people easy ways to learn new skills, explore methods to promote self, business

JEDDAH: Online platforms are helping smaller creative businesses to pass on their knowledge to interested parties. Two such platforms that have been attracting attention from Saudi locals are Suplift and Upgrade.

These online platforms began popping up on social media a few years ago with experiences and activities offered with a registration fee.
Fadi Yahya, the founder of Suplift, told Arab News that the question that inspired Suplift was “How can I ask people with skills to share them with other people who are interested in learning?”

I started noticing that people here didn’t have easy access to activities and workshops or a platform to access these activities.

Fadi Yahya, Founder of Suplift

“I started noticing that people here didn’t have easy access to activities and workshops or a platform to access these activities,” he said. “It was extremely hard for an average person to try any activity they like.”
This led to Yahya giving over a few years of his life to build a business from scratch that allowed profits to be given back to a talented person rather than an organization. “Our job was to make the structure simple.”

HIGHLIGHTS

• Suplift extends across 18 cities in Saudi Arabia, with more than 1,000 experiences on offer. This has helped 10,000 people to make money simply by following their passion.

• Upgrade-sa.com’s targeted audience is people who want to learn new hobbies and explore different worlds, as well as business owners who want to build more connections and move toward expanding their work.

He said there were many challenges as the team was building a new market. “We are not running away or finding the easy way out. One thing we had trouble with was the lack of experience.”
Yahya said that to enable the experiences, the team had to find locations, work out the structure, marketing, customer service, technology, management, as well as ways of working with the government.
The aim of Suplift is to promote the idea of having hobbies. “The thing I am most proud of is that we help so many people make money. Many people say that passion can not help you make money, but I think it is needed in order to help the Saudi economy move further.”
Suplift extends across 18 cities in Saudi Arabia, with more than 1,000 experiences on offer. This has helped 10,000 people to make money simply by following their passion.
“Now that people understand that they can make money doing what they love, we will have more artists, golfers, divers, archers and so many more,” he said. “This makes me proud of my team and myself.”

When we started, we were the ones designing the workshops and we used to seek out the trainers — training and being creative are two different things.

Mohammad Mujahid, COO of Upgrade-sa.com

Mohammad Mujahid, COO of Upgrade-sa.com, told Arab News that their platform’s targeted audience is people who want to learn new hobbies and explore different worlds, as well as business owners who want to build more connections and move toward expanding their work.
The early days of the business were very challenging, Mujahid said. “When we started, we were the ones designing the workshops and we used to seek out the trainers — training and being creative are two different things. So now when the trainers or upgraders, as we call them, come to us, we provide them with guidelines so they can spread their knowledge.”
These two platforms helped local entrepreneurs to work in the creative sector to achieve their goals. This will ultimately contribute to the Kingdom’s goals for the private sector — supporting Saudi economic diversification objectives and building a prosperous future.


Virus recoveries pass half-a-million mark in Saudi Arabia

The ministry urged all residents eligible for the vaccine to register and receive it as a necessity to not only protect themselves, but ensure the safety of the community. (SPA)
The ministry urged all residents eligible for the vaccine to register and receive it as a necessity to not only protect themselves, but ensure the safety of the community. (SPA)
Updated 27 July 2021

Virus recoveries pass half-a-million mark in Saudi Arabia

The ministry urged all residents eligible for the vaccine to register and receive it as a necessity to not only protect themselves, but ensure the safety of the community. (SPA)
  • More than 25 million vaccine doses have been administered so far at a rate of 288,858 per day

JEDDAH: Saudi Arabia has reported 1,299 new recoveries from COVID-19, raising the total number over the course of the pandemic to 500,428, passing the half million mark.

The Kingdom’s recovery rate now stands at 96.3 percent and rising.
Community response in coordination with the Kingdom’s health authorities has helped stabilize the daily confirmed case count through precautionary measures and high immunization rates. As a result, the number of recoveries has continued a steady rise in recent weeks.
On Monday, the Saudi Health Ministry announced 1,252 new COVID-19 cases, raising the total number of cases over the course of the pandemic to 519,395.
The Makkah region topped the case count with 316 cases, while the Riyadh region reported 265, the Eastern Province 169 and Asir 145. Jouf remains the region with the lowest case count, recording only three cases on Monday.
The number of active cases continues to fluctuate between the 10,000-11,000 mark. With today’s numbers, there are now 10,788 active cases, 1,424 of which are in critical care, a rise of 16 in the past 24 hours.

FASTFACTS

• The Kingdom’s recovery rate now stands at 96.3 percent and rising.

• On Monday, the Health Ministry recorded 1,252 new COVID-19 cases.

• The number of active cases continues to fluctuate between 10,000 and 11,000.

• There were 12 new COVID-19-related deaths reported on Monday.

There were 12 new COVID-19-related deaths reported on Monday, bringing the Kingdom’s death toll to 8,179.
As part of precautionary measures, 90,510 PCR tests were conducted in the past 24 hours, raising the total number completed to more than 24.4 million.
More than 25 million vaccine doses have been administered so far at a rate of 288,858 per day. So far, 71.8 percent of the Kingdom’s population have received at least one dose of the vaccine and more than 18 percent have received both doses.
Ahead of the Aug. 1 deadline requiring visitors and employees of government, private and commercial entities and establishments to be immunized by at least one vaccine dose or recovered from an infection, the number of registrations for vaccine appointments has surged.
Ministry spokesman Dr. Mohammed Al-Abd Al-Aly said in Sunday’s press conference that more time slots have been made available for appointments.
The ministry urged all residents eligible for the vaccine to register and receive it as a necessity to not only protect themselves, but ensure the safety of the community.