Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 15 October 2019

UAE medics call for help to address 'huge hazards' of unhealthy lifestyles

Poor diets, lack of exercise and levels of alcohol consumption need to be tackled, Abu Dhabi conference told

Healthcare professionals in the UAE called for wider support to address unhealthy lifestyles, which are a key contributory factor in many diseases. Getty Images    
Healthcare professionals in the UAE called for wider support to address unhealthy lifestyles, which are a key contributory factor in many diseases. Getty Images    

Unhealthy diets and a lack of exercise are leading to a health crisis in the UAE that doctors say they cannot resolve alone.

Healthcare professionals said man-made risk factors such as obesity and sedentary lifestyles, smoking and the consumption of sugary drinks are increasing the risk of early death among UAE residents.

A senior medic told the Seha International Nursing, Midwifery and Allied Health Conference in Abu Dhabi that government support would be vital to help tackle the root causes of many cases of diabetes, cancer and cardiovascular problems.

The biggest market for fast foods and soft drinks is the GCC. We need to start with schoolchildren and how to change mentalities, habits and attitudes

Dr Batool Al Mohandis

In recent years, the government has launched several campaigns and policies aimed at encouraging residents to lead healthier lives, such as placing a 100 per cent tax on tobacco products and a 50 per cent tax on sugary drinks, initiatives that were introduced in October 2017.

“We have been spending millions on treating diseases rather than preventing man-made risk factors,” said Dr Batool Al Mohandis, nurse consultant and speaker at the conference, organised by Seha, the body that operates all public hospitals and clinics in Abu Dhabi.

“This is an issue that nurses alone cannot resolve. Nor can the health care sector. This is an issue of governance. Our mortality rates due to non-communicable diseases are high, reaching 70 to 80 percent.

“We are all well aware of the problems and healthcare sectors are working hard to resolve these huge health hazards, but studies show no decline in these unhealthy life styles habits.”

The World Health Organisation said NCDs - illnesses that cannot be directly transmitted from one person to another - account for 77 per cent of all deaths in the UAE.

“These are huge problems and we have to reach and educate the masses. We need to start with schoolchildren and how to change mentalities, habits and attitudes,” said Dr Mohandis.

“The biggest market for fast foods and soft drinks is the GCC. These are urgent issues that cannot be ignored and require urgent actions from policy makers and leaders.”

Dr Safa Al Mustafa, chief nursing officer at Sheikh Khalifa Medical City, said authorities across the UAE needed to come together to improve the nation's health.

“This isn’t the nurses’ job alone to spread awareness. Everybody should work together," said Dr Al Mustafa.

"It includes culture, the family and education. We need to engage school children and change mentalities.”

Research last month found UAE residents are failing to understand how poor lifestyles can damage the heart, increasing health risks.

A survey revealed that while public awareness about how to stay healthy is growing, many continue to smoke or fail to take proper exercise.

Researchers from YouGov asked 1,002 residents to identify which of nine potential catalysts of heart disease they believed they suffered from, including obesity, high blood pressure, anger issues and smoking.

More than 70 per cent of participants chose at least one category.

“This is the tip of the iceberg,” said Dima Quraini, a cardiologist at the Cleveland Clinic, who stressed that people typically underestimated how unhealthy they were when asked in surveys.

“Less than a third of people reported having no risk factors, so there’s a lot of work for us to do. But the problem is probably much larger.”

Updated: September 30, 2019 06:09 PM

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