x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

Dubai to provide free or discounted treatment for diabetics

The Dubai Health Authority will provide free and discounted treatment to those with diabetes to encourage better management of the condition.

DUBAI // Diabetic residents of the emirate will be given free or discounted treatment and products starting from next week.

The Dubai Health Authority (DHA) said yesterday it hoped to encourage Emirati diabetics to monitor their condition by providing them with free blood glucose monitors.

The devices will be available in the authority's 13 primary health care centres from Sunday, to ensure early management of the disease for nationals and non-nationals. Expatriates who follow up at DHA centres can purchase the device at a "very reduced" price.

"We are going to follow international standards of self-monitoring blood glucose which means patients can do their tests at home," said Dr Mohammad Farghali, the head of acute and chronic care at the DHA. "We are relying on haemoglobin readings to help manage their condition according to the results we receive from them."

Patients will also be trained on how to use the device and receive 100 test strips every three months.

Dr Farghali explained that the DHA is taking a new approach to the management of diabetes by providing patients with a healthcare plan starting in July that will include four consultations with doctors and input from other healthcare professionals such as a dietician and health educator.

The plan will ensure that diabetics consult with a doctor at least four times a year so their condition does not spiral out of control.

Dr Farghali said the DHA is also introducing devices at its primary healthcare centres to give an instant indication of a patient's A1C number (the average blood sugar level for the past two to three months). "In the past, patients had to come back after a few days to collect their results but now they can get their results after a few minutes," Dr Farghali said.

He said the A1C device will at first be available at five primary healthcare centres - Al Safa, Al Mamzar, Al Mankhool, Al Bada'a and Al Khawaneej - but should be available at all centres by September.

In the UAE, 18.6 per cent of the population is diabetic and another 18.7 per cent is estimated to be pre-diabetic, according to the International Diabetes Federation. The federation says the number of diabetics in the Middle East and North Africa is expected to nearly double in the next 20 years.

The DHA's diabetes effort fits into the national search for smarter ways to deal with the illness. In Abu Dhabi, a successful scheme by Daman (the emirate's government's health insurance company) has found that free monthly coaching for Emirati diabetics resulted in significant improvements in their blood sugar levels.

Dr Abdulrazzak al Madani, the chief executive of Dubai Hospital and head of the Emirates Diabetes Society, said due to the prevalence of diabetes, the recommended screening age for the population is as early as 30 years.

"In the UAE, there are almost the same number of pre-diabetics as diabetics. This reinforces the need for people to get themselves tested so that they can prevent developing the condition," he said. "Many diabetics are unaware of their condition which delays treatment of the disease and triggers a host of complications."

Qadhi Saeed al Murooshid, the DHA's director general, launched the project at Nad al Hamar health centre yesterday. This is the final phase of the DHA's three-year diabetes awareness campaign. "Diabetes is a fact: we have to manage it, we have to deal with it, we have to be prepared and we have to educate our people," he said.

"I think [providing the devices] will definitely help diabetics manage their blood sugar levels," said Anis Ahmed, 59, from India. "I have had a blood sugar level device for the last five years but I buy the strips - which tend to be quite costly - from India, because they are cheaper there. It is a good thing that they are providing it at a reduced cost to expatriates."

balqabbani@thenational.ae