Within 10 years, the population of the GCC is expected to grow by one-third, increasing to 53 million. By 2020, the UAE's population will grow by two million. Throughout the GCC, government investments in medical education and facilities have reduced infant mortality rates and increased life expectancies over the past several decades, helping to drive this population boom. But the affluence and success of the GCC has created its own public health problems. Each nation is struggling to build a public health apparatus to combat common epidemics, particularly those caused by a more sedentary lifestyle.
As we reported yesterday, a household study launched under the auspices of the Dubai Health Authority will provide the most complete picture to date of health in the emirate. Surveying 5,000 families on topics ranging from their exercise habits to how they access health care services, the project is one of the widest-reaching efforts to improve health and how health care is provided to residents of the UAE.
Despite their troubling results, past efforts to compile medical data have proved enlightening for policymakers. Earlier this month statistics presented by the World Health Organisation revealed that one in five adults in the UAE has diabetes - the second highest rate in the world. Accurately compiled data and a rigorous vetting of statistics are essential components to improving the health of all those in the region. Just last week, statistics presented at the Arab Conference on Obesity and Physical Activity in Manama made this clear. Physicians, nutritionists and educators exchanged information about the medical issues arising from the obesity epidemic in their home countries, what they were doing to combat it, and where they found success.
The 68th GCC Health Ministers Session, which we report on today, should establish a similar collaborative effort. Projects such as Dubai's household health survey are vital inquiries, but such efforts should not be limited to Dubai. GCC nations share more than just borders. They share traditions and they also share challenges. What has worked in the fight against diabetes in Qatar is likely to work in Bahrain.
The population boom the GCC experienced in the past several decades is a testament to how quickly health care can be revolutionised and the incredible social change that can create. But for the next revolution in health care to take root in the GCC, its members must embark on a collaborative effort.