DUBAI // More than 700 experts from across the Middle East and North Africa are expected to attend a two-day diabetes conference that began in the emirate yesterday.
The Mena Diabetes Leadership Forum, which featured an address by the former US president Bill Clinton on its opening day, heard from numerous speakers on the need to stem the disease's spread.
Professor Jean-Claude Mbanya, the president of the International Diabetes Federation, warned that by 2030 more than half a billion people worldwide could be living with diabetes. He called for a different approach to the design of cities and transport systems, as well as the labelling of food and drink.
GCC countries needed to change their approach, said Prof Dr Tawfik Khoja, the director-general of the executive board of the Health Ministers' Council for the GCC states.
It was cheaper to buy fatty fast food, he said, than it was to cook a nutritious meal at home.
Dr Khoja said he himself had been diagnosed with type 2 diabetes a few months ago, and lost his brother to the disease at the age of 43.
"Nobody is safe from diabetes today; we have to at least try and make sure our future generations will be protected from it," he said.
Dr Kamel Ajlouni, the head of the national centre for diabetes, endocrine and genetic diseases in Jordan, said that in his country, Friday sermons on the dangers of diabetes reached at least a million people in the country's 5,000 mosques.
The Dubai Declaration on Diabetes and Chronic Non-Communicable Diseases in the Mena region was approved yesterday by all 22 countries. It committed each country to put a national strategy in place that encompassed both prevention and treatment. Dr Khoja said there were almost no such strategies in the region at the moment. "That has to change," he said.