DUBAI // The first dedicated diabetes centre for children opened yesterday, the latest step in the country's fight to control an illness that is growing alarmingly among young people. The UAE has the second highest rate of the disease in the world, with the majority of victims suffering from Type 2 diabetes. "Children and parents have a problem in lack of education on the disease," said Dr Abdulrazzaq al Madani, the chairman of the Emirates Diabetes Society. "We aim at teaching them how to manage their food, their insulin, their lifestyle and exercise."
The Juvenile Diabetes Education Center, in Dubai's Healthcare City, opened in the same week as World Diabetes Day, which falls on Friday. Also this week, staff from Sheikh Khalifa Medical City's Diabetes and Endocrinology Center launched a major programme in government schools to educate pupils about risk factors for the disease. The diabetes centre will offer an online 24-hour monitoring system, which will enable parents and doctors to keep track of the blood-sugar levels of children with the condition at all times.
The aim is to allow children and their families to manage the disease on a daily basis at home and at school so the children can live as normally as possible. Children with diabetes will be able to take their blood-sugar level daily, download it to a programme on their mobile phones and send the results to the centre's website via SMS, Dr Mohammed Khaled, the centre's manager said. There it can be monitored and a suitable lifestyle programme drawn up.
The centre, run in partnership with the Johnson and Johnson Corporate Citizenship Trust, opens at a time when diabetes and obesity are becoming an increasing problem among the young. Diabetes is estimated to be as high as one in five, with statistics from the World Health Organisation stating it could affect 70 per cent of UAE residents. " Previously diabetes management was only about medication," said Dr Khaled. "But it should be about awareness, management, education, and lifestyle. At the moment there is a lot of ignorance over the problem." The centre will provide one- on-one counselling for children and parents, as well as group lectures on diet and exercise regimes. It will also go into schools to raise awareness about the disease. Dr Khaled said specialists needed to sit down with children and explain about insulin. "At the moment a large number do not understand that they need to inject themselves three to four times a day, rather than just once," he said. " We also need to focus on eating habits. Children like to eat sweets and chocolate and unhealthy foods. It is difficult to prevent them from doing so unless we explain to them exactly what the problem is." The team also intends to train graduate nurses in diabetes management, as the majority receive no specific instruction on dealing with the disease. At the moment, the centre can accept up to 250 patients. They can be registered by their parents or referred by a doctor, but they must be based in Dubai, be aged between four and 18 and not be suffering from a secondary condition. There are plans for other centres to be built around the country in future. Dr Nawal al Mutawa, an expert on diabetes and consultant in endocrinology at Al Qassimi Hospital, said many patients did not understand what diabetes was, and were even ashamed to be diagnosed with it, preferring not to acknowledge it. "This centre, and others in the future, will help teach them that there is nothing to be ashamed of, and that more people than they think actually suffer from it." And if children are taught why these lifestyle changes are needed, they will more responsive, she said. " Education is more important than any medication." Dr Mutawa said in the West diabetes was dealt with through changes in lifestyle and diet, but the changes needed to be more drastic the UAE. "We do not have the same lifestyle here. Over there they are more healthy." email@example.com