Keeping the menace at bay


The annual ‘Beat Diabetes’ campaign by Landmark Group seeks to generate wider awareness in the society about the growing diabetes epidemic across the Sultanate. Muhammed Nafie reports.

Diabetes is increasing at an alarming rate across the world. Over 300 million people worldwide are living with Diabetes, and the number of people living with diabetes is predicted to reach 430 million by 2025.

Oman continues to be one of the ten top countries with the highest prevalence of diabetes in the World, as the country was ranked sixth in 2007 and ninth in 2010 by the International Diabetes Federation (IDF), an umbrella organisation of over 200 national diabetes associations in over 160 countries.

Awareness is the first step in the battle against diabetes. Keeping this in mind, Landmark Group, the hospitality and retail conglomerate adopted the fight against diabetes as part of its CSR initiative in 2009 in the UAE, launching the ‘Beat Diabetes’ initiative in order to make people alert about the growing diabetes epidemic across the world.

The campaign has extended into five new countries in the following years such as Oman, Kuwait, Qatar, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia and India. Walkathons were held across all six countries with over 25,000 people participating. The Group also conducted free blood glucose tests for over 30,000 people. Landmark Group’s campaign will assist people in creating consciousness about the long term disorder.

In 2011, the group partnered with the International Diabetes Federation (IDF), becoming the organisation’s first retail corporate supporter partner. This relation has also made Landmark one of the official partners of the World Diabetes Day.

Mitigating risks
As part of the campaign in Oman in 2012, the group is hosting blood-sugar testing camps across various regions in the sultanate to create awareness on diabetes. In order to mitigate risks caused by late diagnosis of the condition, diabetes testing centres will be set up at multiple locations across the Group’s retail network to administer free blood glucose test for the community leading up to the annual walkathon during the Diabetes awareness month of November.

The first awareness campaign was held at Centrepoint – Salalah on October 26 and 27 followed by campaigns in Sohar, Muscat, and corporate offices in the country.

Several private and public organisations such as Muscat Pharmacy and Al Raffah Hospital have extended their support towards this initiative and would be assisting in conducting test at all the camps. Seeniya Biju, COO of Al Raffah Hospital, one of the partners in the campaign, says, “We are indeed happy to be part of the Landmark Group’s CSR initiative, Beat Diabetes campaign for the second year.

Diabetes is a growing dreadful disease that leads to death and requires more awareness all across the world.” She adds that being one of the largest campaigns in Oman it could cover all parts of the country and spread the message to a cross section of people. The campaign has also been very effective in diagnosing some cases at an early stage. It shows how effective is has become in curbing the menace.

Dr Saida Noor Al Busaidi, senior consultant, Royal Hospital, and Chairperson of National Diabetes Management Service Development Committee corroborates, “ ‘Beat Diabetes’ campaign is very important to raise awareness at all levels and sectors, both for the healthy and those affected with diabetes- for the prevention and control of the disease and prevention of complication.” She urges everyone to understand that diabetes is not a mild disease, but a complex chronic disease which has lots of consequences if the patient does not control it.

Dr Saida also highlights the importance of joint efforts by government and private sector to promote a healthy lifestyle focusing on women and children and providing the means for people to live a healthy lifestyle.

Referring to some of the alarming numbers she added, “The GCC countries are among the top 10 in the world. In Oman we have 137,000 adult diabetes patients excluding children with diabetes and pregnant women with diabetes. Obesity and diabetes go hand in hand and in Oman.

Overweight and obese represent 60 per cent of our population. As many as 35 per cent people are in a pre diabetes stage and people these will become diabetic if they do not practise a healthy lifestyle.”

Huwayda Nasser Al Shahimi, Owner of FitBody Diet and Fitness Centre, says being overweight or obese will increase one’s risk of complications. “Losing just a few kilos through exercise and eating well can help with diabetes control and reduce the risk of other health problems,” she said. “Just 30 minutes a day of moderate physical activity reduces the occurrence of developing diabetes.

You will also have more energy and feel better in general.” Huwayda also informs that FitBody gives training on how to lose weight in a healthy way and keep off fatty foods.”

The national health surveys over the past three decades have shown increasing prevalence of diabetes mellitus in Oman. The first National Health Survey on diabetes, which was conducted in 1991, showed a prevalence of 9.75 per cent, while the National Health Survey in the year 2000 showed that the prevalence has increased to 11.6 per cent among adults over 20 years of age.

In addition, the NHS (2000) also demonstrated high prevalence of hypertension, dyslipidemia and overweight and obesity combined. These were 35 per cent, 40 per cent and 48 per cent respectively. Tobacco use among adults was also prevalent at 23 per cent. A recent National Health Survey (2008) has shown that diabetes has increased significantly to 12.3 per cent, along with an increase in risk factors such as obesity and physical inactivity. Currently, the total number of Omanis living with diabetes and registered at the ministry of health surpasses 170,000 and this is increasing 5,000 annually.

Prevention efforts
According to Dr Sulaiman Al-Shereqi, Priority Diseases Control Section, Ministry of Health and senior specialist in Public Health, and who is supervising the National Non-communicable Diseases Screening Programme, “The public health assessment of the current situation leads to the conclusion that the Ministry of Health must give equal attention towards developing the quality of both the curative services as well as the preventive services.

This requires the cooperation of all health stakeholders in redefining the public health priorities especially those linked to healthy lifestyle and healthy living. Success in implementing preventive health strategies would start to show effects in a decade’s time. Therefore, it is essential to start building collaborations and work together now.

The partnership with Landmark Group in their initiative ‘fight against diabetes’ for the third year in a row presents a good example of ‘private public partnership’ which the World Health Organisation is recommending in the fight against the non-communicable disease epidemic.”

Towards instituting public health measures to control non-communicable diseases, Oman has implemented a national non-communicable diseases screening programme since 2007. The programme is currently provides a screening service for all Omanis aged 40 years and above.

The screening targets five common conditions, which include diabetes, hypertension, chronic renal impairment, obesity, and hypercholesterolemia. The main objectives of this programme is:
Early detection of non-communicable diseases (NCD) to initiate early treatment and delay or prevent complications
Early detection and intervention of pre-NCD to delay or prevent NCD
Early detection and intervention of NCD risk factors e.g.; obesity, smoking, alcohol use, physical inactivity, overuse of nephrotoxic drugs and unhealthy diet
To educate and promote good health
To increase the awareness about the burden of NCD and the role of early screening
Muscat Pharmacy along with its Principal Lifescan – J&J Company have teamed up with the Landmark Group to provide free screening of participants and attendees at various locations during the ‘Beat Diabetes Campaign’ over the last couple of years. The Walkathon programme of 2011, involved screening of nearly 3,000 attendees.

Says Pradeep Shetty, sales manager, Muscat Pharmacy, “Screening helps in identifying persons with diabetes (undiagnosed cases), in existing diabetes patients, the screening process helps in identifying whether their blood glucose is under control. It helps in increasing awareness and educating both the patient and caregivers or family members.” While a lot is being done to combat the growing incidence of Diabetes, more needs to be done in this field.

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