Ali Hashemi, principal and healthcare consultant at Booz & Company, called for early healthcare intervention to combat the increasing prevalence of chronic “lifestyle diseases” in the GCC. Hashemi’s comments came during a Sunday evening lecture titled “Out of the Hospital, into the Classroom: Health and Wellness through Early Intervention.”
Hashemi noted that the prevalence of chronic diseases among populations in the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries is set to worsen over the coming decade, mainly because of the large number of young people in the region adopting unhealthy, sedentary lifestyles.
He called for a holistic approach to early childhood wellness interventions to combat the obesity epidemic, saying: “The outcomes expected are longer life expectancy, higher educational attainment and greater worker productivity. To achieve these benefits, the GCC countries should develop a holistic framework for school health programmes that defines and coordinates the roles of various primary stakeholders, identifies core services to be delivered, and establishes a policy and operating model to ensure school systems have the resources they need to effectively address the mounting problem of chronic disease.”
The talk highlighted the experiences of some countries, showing the wide-ranging benefits of early prevention programmes, including broader access to healthcare, lower cost burdens for governments, and improved socio-economic welfare.
According to a study conducted by Emirates Diabetes Association, one out of five citizens in the UAE is a diabetic, while 25 per cent of Emirati men and 40 per cent of national women are classified as obese. The study also indicates that consumers in the UAE eat 18 times more meat per capita than the global average, placing them in the high risk category for chronic diseases such as diabetes, cancer and cardiovascular diseases.
According to Dr. Fatma Abdulla, Non-resident Fellow at DSG and Managing Director of Global Consulting Associates, “As schools remain the most effective place to reach young people and encourage healthy behavior, preventative healthcare initiatives in schools are the best way for governments to adopt a proactive, efficient long-term approach toward encouraging good nutrition and exercise habits that translate into healthy populations.”