More than 40% of Saudis are obese

1 / 4
The problem with diabetes is in its dangerous complications such as cardiovascular disease and damage of kidney and many more. (SPA)
2 / 4
There are 3.8 million diabetics in the Kingdom, representing almost 19 percent of the adult population. (Shutterstock)
3 / 4
The problem with diabetes is in its dangerous complications such as cardiovascular disease and damage of kidney and many more. (SPA)
4 / 4
Abdulrahman Al-Sheikh at a gathering held at the Crowne Plaza Hotel in Jeddah. (Photo/Supplied)
Updated 16 April 2019

More than 40% of Saudis are obese

  • Unhealthy lifestyles to blame
  • Diabetes ‘drain’ health budget, says official

JEDDAH: More than 40 percent of Saudi citizens are obese, according to a health official, as two major health campaigns were launched in the Kingdom around diabetes and high blood pressure.
Diabetes and endocrinology consultant and chairman of the Saudi Society for Diabetes, Abdulrahman Al-Sheikh, said the campaigns reflected the principles of the Kingdom's Vision 2030 reform plan which emphasizes the provision of preventive medicine and the fight against chronic diseases.
He said there were 3.8 million diabetics in the Kingdom, representing almost 19 percent of the adult population, and that obesity was a major issue in Saudi society.
“Diabetes drains big sums of any country’s budget allocated for health ministries,” he told Arab News. “More than 40 percent of Saudi citizens are suffering from obesity. When we add overweight cases to this ratio, the number hits 70 percent and these are some of the reasons that have led to the spread of diabetes in Saudi Arabia.”
The high numbers were caused by unhealthy eating habits and low participation in sports, he said, adding: “It is the role of physicians and educators to advise people to practice sports so that we may have fewer diabetes cases in the future. The problem with diabetes is in its dangerous complications such as cardiovascular disease and damage of kidney and many more.”
Around 50 percent of dialysis patients were diabetics, he explained, and the same ratio was found in patients with cardiovascular problems. “A similar number is found with eye patients. That is why such complications are draining 40 percent of the health budget in Saudi Arabia.”
Al-Sheik said that 45 percent of deaths were a result of heart diseases.
“A hundred years ago people died of contagious diseases, especially tuberculosis. With lifestyles improving, heart diseases, which are mainly caused by high blood pressure and diabetes, have become one of the main causes of death, in addition to smoking and cholesterol.”
Diabetics were more vulnerable to hypertension than others, he added, and hypertension was known as a “silent killer” because a patient may die of the disease without prior knowledge of it. “So, a person should always check his or her blood pressure and take necessary medications in case one is diagnosed with hypertension.”
Al-Sheikh said prices for hypertension and diabetes medication were high because manufacturers said their research was costly, but that the Saudi Food and Drug Authority (SFDA) got its pricing from more than 30 countries of any drug and discussed what was best for the local market.
“That’s why we have the lowest prices among neighboring countries. I agree that the prices are globally high, but manufacturers claim that their research is costly, too. However, there are some countries where drug prices are cheaper than they are here, but I am hopeful that the SFDA will have another look at this issue.”
The two campaigns aim to alleviate the pain of patients as well as achieve a safe and high quality of life, according to the reform plan's objectives for the health sector.
The campaigns, sponsored by the French pharmaceutical company Servier, will provide free checks for citizens and residents in commercial centers, malls and communities in most cities and regions in the Kingdom.
The first campaign, which has been approved by the SFDA, is organized in cooperation with the Jeddah-based Friends of Diabetic Patients Charitable Association. The other campaign is organized in cooperation with the Saudi Hypertension Management Society (SHMS) and is currently in the final stages of the SFDA approval process.
Senior consultant and head of the Pediatric Kidney Unit at Al-Qatif Central Hospital, Saleh Al-Shurafa, said the hypertension campaign went beyond the free screening process.
“The campaign aims primarily at raising awareness and shedding light on the importance of early detection and lifestyle modification, especially since the prevalence of high blood pressure is 15 percent in adults in Saudi Arabia,” he told Arab News. “Families can play their role in providing members with home care.”
Al-Shurafa, who is also president of SHMS, said that 70 percent of diabetics around the world had high blood pressure and that was the reason for linking the two campaigns.
“That is why the Ministry of Health and SFDA set controlling blood pressure and diabetes as a priority in their programs. The correlation between the two diseases makes it necessary to fight both diseases in parallel, as this will help to avoid many complications, as well as the need to stimulate society to live a healthy and sustainable life.”
He said SHMS started in 2004 with health specialists from around the country. Their goal was to combine efforts in fighting the diseases and training physicians on how to diagnose and deal with hypertension.

“In 2008, the society expanded its work and was approved internationally. Our main objective is to spread awareness about high blood pressure and its dangers. In addition, we hold courses for both health professionals and members of society.”
SHMS, in coordination with the International Hypertension League and other health organization, will start checking people’s blood pressures from next month in locations such as malls, public places and health centers. “This move aims to spread awareness of dangers that high blood pressure can cause. In this campaign we also urge people to play sports and to follow balanced diets.”


Saudi TikTok users weigh in on potential app ban

Photo/Supplied
Updated 12 July 2020

Saudi TikTok users weigh in on potential app ban

  • Due to pandemic, interest in the app skyrocketed as many users watch videos and try to recreate them while in quarantine

RIYADH: Chinese video platform TikTok is under fire once again, as rumors of the app being a tool used by the Chinese government to spy on users resurface online.

TikTok, owned by Chinese company ByteDance, is a video-sharing site similar to the now-defunct Vine, where users share short clips of themselves which can be altered using AI technology.
Lip-syncing along with a track, using filters, and adding special effects give users the chance to create short clips that can be shared and downloaded in several social media platforms.
Due to the coronavirus pandemic, interest in the app skyrocketed as many users downloaded TikTok to watch videos and try to recreate them while in quarantine. The app has also gained significant popularity in the Middle East with influencers such as Saudi model Roz, UAE-based content creators Khalid and Salama, and Saudi top TikToker iimeeto, who recently celebrated reaching four million followers on the platform.
Rania Mohammed, a fourth year medical student at Dar AlUloom University in Riyadh, said that TikTok was “the only thing keeping her sane” as she struggled with the pressures of school and quarantine.
“As a med school student, my attention span and free time are both severely limited,” she told Arab News. “Taking a 15 minute break to watch silly TikToks has helped me keep motivated. The specific brand of humor on that app is the fastest way to make me laugh.”
Mai Alhumood, a government employee, said that she downloaded the app while she was bored and became “quickly addicted” to the platform’s fun short videos.
“People are so creative on TikTok, and the challenges that keep going viral are so interesting,” she told Arab News.
However, the app has long-suffered from accusations of spying and gathering users’ private information on behalf of the Chinese government, leading to both temporary and permanent bans in countries around the world.
Recently, it was reported that Amazon requested that employees remove the app from their smartphones in an email over “security risks.” The company later retracted its directive.
Saudi cybersecurity expert Abdullah Al-Jaber believed that concerns over the security of TikTok’s collected data stemmed from the app’s country of origin and its rules and regulations.

HIGHLIGHTS

• Following a provisional ban in April 2019, India’s Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology banned TikTok permanently in June this year, along with 58 other Chinese apps. The ministry claimed that the apps were a ‘threat to the sovereignty and security of the country’ following a Himalayan border clash with Chinese troops in the disputed territory of Ladakh.

• Indonesia temporarily blocked TikTok in July 2018, citing public concern regarding ‘illegal content’ such as pornography and blasphemy. However, the app was unblocked following various changes from TikTok such as the opening of a government liaison office and implementing security mechanisms.

• Recently, the US became the third country to seriously consider banning the app, according to information from President Donald Trump’s administration. Trump also weighed in on a potential TikTok ban. He said that banning the app would be ‘punishing China for its response to the coronavirus.’

“TikTok collects data in a very similar way to US applications,” he told Arab News. “However the main concern is that the US has regulations and compliance that must be met when collecting customer data, such as GDPR data privacy regulation. In the case of TikTok, we don’t know as much about how the data is being used or stored because we don’t know their regulations.”
Following a provisional ban in April 2019, India’s Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology banned TikTok permanently in June this year, along with 58 other Chinese apps. The ministry claimed that the apps were a “threat to the sovereignty and security of the country” following a Himalayan border clash with Chinese troops in the disputed territory of Ladakh.
Indonesia temporarily blocked TikTok in July 2018, citing public concern regarding “illegal content” such as pornography and blasphemy. However, the app was unblocked following various changes from TikTok such as the opening of a government liaison office and implementing security mechanisms.
Recently, the US became the third country to seriously consider banning the app, according to information from President Donald Trump’s administration.
Trump also weighed in on a potential TikTok ban. In an interview with Gray Television, Trump said that banning the app would be “punishing China for its response to the coronavirus.”
“Look, what happened with China with this virus, what they’ve done to this country and to the entire world is disgraceful,” he said.
While Saudi Arabia has yet to announce a ban of any kind of TikTok, local users and followers are trying to practice caution while using the app anyway.
Alhumood considered making videos on the platform, but dismissed the idea and only uses it to follow other people’s videos.
“I have ideas for it, sure, but I’d rather not take the risk. I don’t even have a username or a registered account, and that’s one of the better things about TikTok. I only have the app, but I can still watch all the videos without giving them my private information.”
Mohammed also said that she had no interest in creating videos herself, though she did have a registered account in order to comment on videos and keep track of her favorites.
However Al-Jaber said that, in his opinion, registering an account on TikTok did not necessarily pose more of a risk than using other social media.
“If you use Facebook or Twitter, it’s not much different than using TikTok,” he said.