MUSCAT — The incidence of diabetes has reached alarming proportions in Oman and is continuing to rise, posing a big challenge to the country’s health
system, experts have warned calling for a vigorous drive to tackle the problem.
“We are not doing enough to stop diabetes,” a senior Health Ministry official told a news conference here on Saturday called to announce a new ‘Beat Diabetes’ campaign in the sultanate.
Latest statistics indicate that nearly 15 per cent of the country’s indigenous population is now affected, compared with 11.6 per cent in 2000 and 8.3 per cent in 1991. The rate is the highest in the capital — 17.4 per cent.
According to the International Diabetes Federation (IDF), the sultanate ranks 12th in the world in the prevalence of diabetes in adult population and some 1,000 deaths in the country this year will be directly attributable to the disease.
Fifteen per cent is “an alarming rate and takes a significant toll on the health of the people of Oman,” Dr Halima Al Hinai, Director of Health Education at the Ministry of Health, said. “Therefore, it poses a big challenge to our health system in addressing all its curative aspects and treating all its complications,” she added.
The ministry is joining hands with a leading business house in the region — the Landmark Group — to launch the Beat Diabetes initiative. The first step will be a 2.1km walkathon on November 12, coinciding with World Diabetes Day, observed every year on November 14. There will also be free blood glucose screening at different places across the country throughout the month.
Al Hinai noted that Oman’s rapid economic progress had resulted in increasing incidences of non-communicable and lifestyle-related diseases, notably diabetes, stressing that all segments of the society must work together to face the challenge. The private sector, she said, had a key role to play in this regard.
“We are not doing enough to stop diabetes,” Dr Suleiman Al Shereiqi, In-Charge of the National Non-communicable Diseases Screening Programme at the Health Ministry, said. “It is a big challenge…. We have a high rate of foot amputations in Oman,” he added.
Al Shereiqi said the Beat Diabetes campaign was an “excellent opportunity” to raise awareness about “a growing problem in the country and to encourage people to adopt a healthy balanced diet, physical activity and to go for screening every second year”.
“Diabetes is growing at an alarming rate across the globe,” Clive Freeman, Territory Head — Landmark Group, Oman, said, noting that every year some seven million people developed the disease worldwide. And diabetes was the cause of four million deaths annually, he further said, adding: “When we reviewed the research figures about its impact on this region last year, we realised that a high percentage of the individuals who are living with Type-2 diabetes are not even aware of the fact that they are suffering from this condition. This prompted us to take up the cause and help spread awareness about diabetes.”
The group held its first ‘Beat Diabetes, walkathon in Dubai in 2009 that attracted more than 5,000 people. This year, countries hosting the event will include Kuwait, Qatar, Bahrain and India, besides Oman and the UAE.