Here at the Janssen Health Policy Centre
our mission is to raise awareness on issues impacting healthcare policy, build
consensus through dialogue, and shape recommendations for future policies
The UAE ranks third in the Middle East in obesity prevalence at a rate of more than 37%, well above the European average of around 20%. Meanwhile, growing rates of child obesity present a looming threat to the UAE’s health budget and wider economy with 18% of boys and 12% of girls respectively considered to be obese. Furthermore, according to the International Diabetes Foundation, the UAE has among the highest comparative prevalence rates of diabetes in adults in the world (19% in 2014) which highlights the urgent need for policy action in the country. With this said, the economic costs of obesity in the UAE are already significant at USD6bn, or 1.6% of the country’s GDP. Even with the government’s prevention and awareness efforts, there is still a lack of access to treatment and follow up particularly for expatriates which account for 80-85% of the overall population. According to Dr. Nadia Ahmed, Obesity Medicine Specialist, even with the recently endorsed guidelines for the surgical treatment of type 2 diabetes, bariatric surgery is still not understood as a metabolic procedure by many providers, and certainly not by most patients. However, she believes that the application of surgery in the treatment of diabetes should help to change this perception. Experts conclude that policy makers in the UAE should consider strengthening the regulatory environment to create more standardized approaches to obesity care, including rules around the selection and post-operative treatment of patients undergoing metabolic surgery. Additionally, experts recommend that the UAE adopts a multidisciplinary approach to treating obese patients, incorporating this into the country’s primary healthcare strategy.