The research project is called “National Survey of Diabetes and its Complications in the UAE – Abu Dhabi phase.”
It was led by Dr Hussein Saadi, a professor of medicine and health science at UAE University in Al Ain, who was assisted by six leading heath academics from universities across Abu Dhabi.
The project was one of 14 winning entries from the Foundation’s 2009 ‘Research into Emirati Society’ Grants competition.
Each winning entry received a grant to carry out vital research into social development challenges facing the UAE – and thus to increase the amount of empirical information available on Emirati society.
In Dr Saadi’s study, the researchers examined the prevalence of undiagnosed diabetes, and the criteria used to screen patients at UAE Primary Health Care (PHC) clinics. They then assessed the quality of care received by patients already diagnosed with the condition at both PHC clinics and at hospital diabetes centres.
They also examined whether preventative measures such as early screening for the condition could reduce the onset of complications such as cardiovascular disease.
The researchers found that almost half of adult patients attending a PHC clinic had undiagnosed diabetes or were at risk of developing diabetes.
Of those identified with undiagnosed diabetes, all were aged over 45 and had a body mass index of over 25, indicating that lowering the screening age to less than 30 would not be a cost-effective strategy.
The investigators also found of the 275 patients they studied who had already been diagnosed with diabetes, only one in four followed the recommended diet. Only a handful of those surveyed said they had met with a diabetes educator or taken regular exercise to help keep their condition under control.
Dr Sabha Al Shamsi, Senior Executive Advisor to the Education and Social Development Programme at the Emirates Foundation, said: “Emiratis have the second highest rate of diabetes in the world. Consequently the condition and the health problems caused by it are a growing source of concern among health professionals in the UAE.”
She continued: “By helping to identify the prevalence of diabetes complications and the factors associated with the rapid onset of these complications, this study can help policy makers and care providers identify key action steps to improve prevention and management of diabetes.”
Dr Saadi, as the study’s principal researcher, commented: “On the basis of our research, we recommend the introduction of lifestyle interventionist strategies, such as increased physical exercise, low fat diets for all high-risk patients and community-wide prevention programmes, to increase awareness of the risks which a poor lifestyle can have on the nation’s health.
“National policy initiatives which support the role of diabetes educators, and self management education programmes, are also needed to improve the health of diabetic patients.”
To complete the study, the researchers randomly tested 800 Emirati men and non-pregnant women, over 18 years of age, attending the Sheikh Khalifa Medical City (SKMC) Center for Diabetes and Endocrinology and Al-Bateen Primary Healthcare Clinic.
Each participant was asked to complete a detailed questionnaire on his/her demographic, diet and other relevant factors, and to provide a blood sample.
Three Emirati research assistants assisted Dr Saadi and his team of medical experts during the 14-month research project.
The research findings have now been published in ‘The Review of Diabetes Studies’ a journal that publishes original manuscripts on diabetes related research.
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