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What a “wider” Middle East is doing about their Diabetes epidemic

November 8, 2011

Tour of the Middle East- Part 6: Oman

-          This series of posts will take you on a country by country tour of the Middle East, showing how economic and social development occurs in one of the most unstable regions in the world.

Diabetes have unfortunately become a common illness in American households.  The Middle East, however, has been experiencing “growing” pains when it comes to their knowledge about this serious disease.  What the rest of the world might not know, is that six Middle East countries, Egypt, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, and Saudi Arabia, are on the top 10 list of countries with the highest rates of diabetes in the world.

With approximately 12.3 percent of Oman’s population affected by diabetes, the country is in the midst of fighting a disease that is often underestimated.  While registered diabetes patients totaled 66,702 in 2010, that number is suspected to be only half of the total amount.  The rest are patients often unaware of the effects of diabetes, battling symptoms that may seem innocent enough at first, but potentially deadly in the long run.  However, it is early detection that can be the key to overcoming diabetes.  Ahmed Al Kharousi, of the Oman Diabetes Association (ODA), is helping lead this initiative:

“We believe that education will enhance the empowerment of patients and relatives, for a better quality of life.”

While the goal to combat diabetes in the early stages has been a struggle in the Middle East, Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) programs among the region’s leading corporations could go a long way in helping to develop an early awareness of this deadly disease.  Landmark Group, the leading retail and hospitality conglomerate in the Middle East, began spearheading the fight against diabetes in 2009.  Using “their vast retail network,” Landmark, “will strive to ensure that necessary information about diabetes is communicated to the right audience.” This is just one of many steps in their ‘Beat Diabetes’ campaign that Landmark has launched, in addition to partnering with the International Diabetes Federation (IDF) to become their first retail corporate sponsor.  A successful private-public coalition used in the health development sector could go a long way in establishing more of these strategic partnerships to fight other diseases as well.  Already, BankDhofar of Oman has signed on with the ODA, showing that health related CSR programs might be on the rise in the Middle East.  While BankDhofar’s goals focus mainly on awareness programs, there are numerous ways that other corporations can get involved, such as pre-screening, family planning, and healthy living programs.

Since one in five people in the Middle East suffer from diabetes, and that this staggering rate has gone largely unnoticed in the global community, the IDF is stepping up their efforts in the region.  This December, Dubai will host a diabetes-based summit, recognizing the impacts of diabetes, outlining future plans in the fight against it and officially declaring it a major threat to the Middle East.  This, along with other multi-dimensional strategies (including CSR initiatives), will help create a more steadfast position and pressing attitude throughout the Middle East.

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