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New EIU report challenges policy response to diabetes epidemic in the Gulf region
November 12, 2015, 12:00 pm

A new report released today entitled Diabetes in the Gulf: The policy challenge calls on policymakers in the Gulf region to do more to address the growing challenge of diabetes. The report, developed by The Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) and sponsored by Janssen, highlights the sharp rise in prevalence of diabetes and the associated rising economic costs and calls for a coherent region-wide approach to tackle the issue.

Diabetes is a ticking time bomb in the Gulf region. Data from the International Diabetes Federation (IDF) shows that prevalence of the disease has reached 23.9 percent of the adult population in Saudi Arabia, 23.1 percent in Kuwait and 19.8 percent Qatar, over twice the global average of 8.3 percent. Overweight and obesity, brought on by rising economic prosperity, are to blame for driving the diabetes epidemic in this region, with up to 75 percent of adults and up to 40 percent of under-18s overweight or obese.

Consequently, the financial burden of diabetes in the region is high and has the potential to rise even further. The report notes that US$16.8bn was spent on diabetes care in 2014, according to estimates from the IDF, with this figure set to rise to US$24.7bn by 2035. Additionally, as people develop diabetes at a younger age, a growing number of patients are living with the disease for longer, significantly increasing the per-capita costs of patient care.

With healthcare investment in the Gulf region ranging from 2.2 percent to 4.9 percent of GDP in 2012, far below the OECD average of 8.9 percent of GDP, there is significant scope to increase healthcare investment levels in this region. However, it is important to note that it is not just about the amount of money spent on dealing with diabetes, but how this money is invested. The report highlights that while several initiatives are being implemented in the Gulf region, including those targeting specific aspects of the disease such as screening, the response is not consistent throughout the region.

“Our research has revealed a number of opportunities to help combat the rise of diabetes in Gulf region,” said Martin Koehring, report editor, EIU. “From strengthening primary healthcare, to introducing tough new legislation and engaging community leaders, policymakers must adopt regional practices to tackle the growing burden of diabetes in the Gulf.”

“The rise of diabetes in the Gulf region is a significant public health concern and represents a substantial risk to further development,” said Jan Van der Goten, Managing Director, Janssen GCC. “Janssen is committed to investing in local and regional initiatives to help tackle the burden of diabetes in the region. We hope this report will offer valuable insights into the burden of the disease and encourage change in how policymakers combat the disease.”

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