AL AIN // Six specialist clinics to address the country's most common children's ailments have been set up by Al Ain Hospital.
Two will offer primary health services, one to newborns and the other to adolescents. The others will treat asthma, obesity, diabetes and bed-wetting.
Prof Andreas Boeck, the chairman of the hospital's Child Health Institute, said they would help give doctors and officials a better idea of the true state of children's health.
"We know the overall statistics," he said, "but we have to find out what is especially true for the children. We have estimated numbers but not scientific proof, which is what we need to develop an efficient response."
Getting "reliable and recent" figures on the ailments afflicting the country's youth was crucial, he said.
Asthma, for example, is on the rise worldwide, according to Dr Matouk Zbaeda, an expert in child asthma and a consultant at the institute.
"There is an especially high incidence of asthma in the UAE, and we need to understand why," Dr Zbaeda said. He estimates that 15 per cent of the country's population suffers from the disease, roughly double the 7.2 per cent worldwide figure.
According to Dr Muhaned Marah, a child kidney specialist, bed-wetting affects around one in seven five-year-olds.
"Undiagnosed and untreated, kids have poor self-esteem, social problems and negative impact on academic achievement," Dr Marah said. "But treatment in most cases is simple."
Prof Boeck said a dedicated clinic would help raise awareness among parents, for whom bed-wetting could be a sensitive issue. There was a tendency, he said, to either ignore the problem or scold the sufferers.
"We have to rule out first that it is not an organic problem, so that we can then treat it with a psychological approach, but you need a clinic specialised to do that," he said.
Of the six units, the "most crucial", Prof Boeck said, was the obesity clinic. At least a third of the country's children are overweight and will quickly become obese without intervention.
They suffered isolation and frequent bouts of depression, as well as chronic conditions such as heart disease, bone damage and diabetes. The clinic, he said, would ensure the necessary close co-operation between paediatricians, nutritionists and psychologists.
The Well Baby Care Clinic will provide first-time mothers with support and advice, checking weight and developmental milestones such as growth, crawling, language development and neck strength. Mothers will also be given advice on feeding.
The Adolescence Clinic will address an area that, according to Dr Salem bin Othman, the head of general paediatrics at the Child Health Institute, is often forgotten. "Teenagers are neither adults nor children in need of a paediatrician, so sometimes they do not receive the proper health care," he said.
As well as providing teenagers with nutritional information, health education and counselling, the clinic will cover sexual and psychiatric issues.