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WBG address Kuwait's diabetes problem and non-communicable diseases issues in MENA
February 14, 2015, 8:31 am

Kuwait is ranked the 6th highest country in terms of diabetes prevalence, a World Bank Group (WBG) official said. The WBG has called for collective efforts to "Scale Up Universal Health Coverage and Contain Non-Communicable Diseases in the Middle East and North Africa," Dr Timothy Grant Evans, the WBG's Senior Director for Health, Nutrition and Population, said in a roundtable press conference on Thursday.

The WBG has participated in a five-day policy seminar sponsored by the World Bank in coordination with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) Middle East Center for Economics and Finance (CEF) to address the twin challenges of scaling up universal health coverage (UHC) and containing non-communicable diseases in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region, he added.

Evans said that the seminar themed "Scaling Up Universal Health Coverage and Containing Non-Communicable Diseases in the Middle East and North Africa: Challenges, Linkages and Strategies" brought together 37 senior level representatives from ministries of health, finance, and planning and health agencies in the MENA region, as well as representatives from academia and non- governmental organizations.

Presentations by World Bank specialists with expert contributions from World Health Organization (WHO), Johns Hopkins University, US Center for Disease Control (CDC) and the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) are geared towards familiarizing policy makers and participants with global and regional experiences in scaling up universal health coverage and containing non-communicable diseases.

Changing lifestyles
Evans said that the World Bank is eager to address and come up with solutions to the non-communicable diseases through changing lifestyles and reduction of diabetes. He added that such challenges are also represented by increases in mortality rates and aging-related illnesses, pointing out that such diseases would be expensive to manage if left unresolved.

He also called for taking preventive measures as first steps before having to spend more money on medications, besides enabling every person to have access to his or her needs and that every country has the choice to address these challenges from its perspective.

He added that resorting to expensive hospitals was not an appropriate choice for treatment. Primary, secondary and tertiary prevention was much more effective. He pointed out that during the seminar the WB proposed a new model for addressing NCDs emphasizing "prevention", by addressing issues such as the promotion of healthy diet, encouraging low fat foods, discouraging smoking, cutting down on refined sugar and supporting exercise amongst everybody.

Evans stressed that the best approach to address non-communicable diseases is through prevention including measures such as the imposition of taxes on cigarettes and soft drinks and having people make the right healthy lifestyle choices. He also called for promoting regular exercise and changing life styles, saying such steps would decrease the need to go see the doctor.

Evans said that even with good prevention people still get diabetes, urging them to seek good primary care and take medication on time in addition to maintaining the routine doctor visits.

Mortality rates
For his part, Enis Baris, Practice Manager for the Middle East, North Africa and the Caribbean (Health, Nutrition and Population Global Practice) said that the UN member states had agreed on a commitment to reduce mortality rates resulting from non-communicable diseases by 25 percent by 2025 and all countries had committed to do so including Kuwait.

He added that among the measures taken to help in this regard were accelerating tobacco control, reduction of salt in food, increasing physical activities and cutting down on alcohol consumption as well as using modern methods, stressing the need to apply these preventive measures to enjoy a better health.

Baris said that in the Middle East and North Africa Region and especially in the GCC states, the death rate caused by non-communicable diseases is estimated at nearly 45 percent happen before the age of 60 appropriate that to inappropriate diagnosis or bad treatment. He said that there is convincing evidence that non-communicable death could be reduced by 5 percent in the coming 10 years through adopting the previously-said measures.

Turning to mortality caused by traffic accidents, Baris attributed such to bad roads, condition of the vehicle and behavious of the drivers, attributing the high percentage of the mortality rate in Kuwait to the behaviour of the drivers. He said the WB is currently conducting studies addressing road accidents in the region including Kuwait.

Rising burden
For his part, Bassam Ramadan, World Bank Country Manager in Kuwait said "The rising burden of non-communicable diseases and the growing momentum towards expanding health coverage in the region make this seminar highly relevant and timely. It provides an open venue for all participants to share national experiences and lessons learned about two topics dominating the health reform agendas of many countries."

Specific topics covered in the workshop include health financing trends in the MENA region, UHC country experiences, supply-side readiness for implementing UHC, global and regional trends in the burden of non-communicable diseases and injuries. The seminar is part of an annual series of knowledge-sharing events organized by the World Bank and the IMF in Kuwait. More than 36 million people die each year from NCDs, and around 80 percent of these deaths are in low-and middle-income countries.

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