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Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 19 June 2018

Zayed Marathon New York: how the UAE supports research into a disease that afflicted the Founding Father

The late president, Sheikh Zayed, himself received a kidney transplant in the US in 2000

Runners set off on the UAE Healthy Kidney 10K Run in Central Park in Manhattan. Jennifer S Altman for The National
Runners set off on the UAE Healthy Kidney 10K Run in Central Park in Manhattan. Jennifer S Altman for The National

The Zayed Charity Marathon raises awareness about a disease that also afflicts many in the UAE.

Funds go to the National Kidney Foundation in the United States and it’s a partnership that in one way stems from the kidney transplant the late president, Sheikh Zayed received there. Since 2005 there has been more than a $1million raised between direct donations and the runners themselves.

Kevin Longino is the chief executive of the NKF. He told The National that the foundation has been able raise awareness among hundreds of thousands of people because of the UAE-sponsored event - also known as the UAE Healthy Kidney 10 kilometre run - which was first held in 2005.

“You see people throughout the year out jogging with their UAE jerseys,” he said.

“But the race also lets people know it’s an international problem and one that crosses a lot of cultures.”

The foundation is a non-profit organisation stretching back 60 years with dozens of offices across the country. It aims to prevent kidney disease, increase transplant organ availability and boost awareness. The foundation also collaborates with the UAE and shares information through conferences about how to fight the disease.

“Every demographic is affected by kidney disease and this is a universal issue,” said Mr Longino. “We are trying to raise awareness that the US needs to recognise this problem and with others countries saying we recognise this too, then that helps.”

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Read more coverage of the Zayed Marathon:

Thousands turn out for New York run in honour of Sheikh Zayed

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Diabetes is a huge contributory factor for kidney disease and the UAE has one of the highest rates of type 2 diabetes in the world. The International Diabetes Federations estimates close to a million people could have diabetes in the UAE.

Kidney disease can ultimately lead to dialysis or kidney transplants. Recent estimates predict about 2,000 patients in the UAE are undergoing regular dialysis treatment for kidney disease.

Last year, Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi completed its first kidney transplant. At the time it said the UAE was making significant progress in the legal framework surrounding organ transplants with the National Organ Transplant Committee developing a system to allow residents to register as possible donors.

A UAE delegation including General Mohammed Al Kaabi, chairman of the UAE Armed Forces Officers Club, Mohammed Al Habtoor, vice chairman of the Al Habtoor Group and representatives from sports and other government bodies in the UAE visited the foundation in New York last Friday to hear about the impact of the funds donated by the race and to mark the Year of Zayed.

The delegation also visited the Rogosin Institute in New York. The non-profit organisation conducted its first kidney transplant in the early 1960s and has completed more than 5,000 transplants. It’s also focused on prevention.

Dr Barry Smith is president of the institute and says lifestyle is critical to tackling kidney disease.

“If we can all change our lifestyles, eat better, and have more exercise that will do a lot to prevent type 2 diabetes," he said.

The run raises awareness about a disease that also afflicts many in the UAE.

Funds go to the National Kidney Foundation in the United States and it’s a partnership that in one way stems from the kidney transplant the late president, Sheikh Zayed received there. Since 2005 there has been more than a $1million raised between direct donations and the runners themselves.

Dr Smith said the run is a highlight of the year and draws much needed attention to the condition. “It generates funding for research which is very important and is a terrific contribution. The UAE should be very proud of it.”

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Read more:

Public opinion shifts in favour of organ donation, says top surgeon

UAE's largest organ unit receiving calls 'every day' from prospective donors