HE the Prime Minister and Minister of Interior Sheikh Abdullah bin Nasser bin Khalifa Al-Thani has inaugurated on Monday morning the International Diabetes Leadership Forum at the Ritz Carlton Hotel.
The two-day forum will discuss the most prominent health challenges of diabetes and means of combating them with a broad participation of internationally recognized experts.
The forum is held in cooperation between the Ministry of Public Health (MoPH) and ‘Action on Diabetes’ (AOD), a major public-private partnership between Hamad Medical Corporation, Primary Healthcare Corporation (PHCC), Qatar Diabetes Association, Novo Nordisk and lead sponsor Maersk Oil Qatar, in collaboration with the Qatar Metabolic Institute (QMI), and sponsors - the World Diabetes Foundation, International Diabetes Federation, and Qatar Airways.
The opening ceremony was attended by H.E. Minister of Public Health, Dr. Hanan Mohamed Al Kuwari, H.E. Minister of Administrative Development, Labor and Social Affairs, Dr. Issa bin Saad Al Jafali Al Nuaimi, H.E. Minister of Development Planning and Statistics, Dr. Saleh bin Mohammed Al-Nabet, H.E. Minister of Education and Higher Education, Dr. Mohammed Abdul Wahed Al-Hammadi, H.E. Minister of Transport and Communications, Jassim bin Saif Al Sulaiti, H.E Minister of Finance, Ali Ahreef Al-Emadi and a number of senior officials in the GCC and the State of Qatar with a large participation from elite experts on the international level.
The forum aims to highlight the size of the problem in tackling diabetes and the urgent need to reduce its prevalence in the State of Qatar. Via keynote speeches, case studies and workshops run by leading international experts, the forum will promote dialogue and ideas exchange, to help develop practical recommendations for the implementation of the country's newly-formulated National Diabetes Strategy.
In her opening speech to the forum, H.E Minister of Public Health, Dr. Hanan Mohamed Al Kuwari said that the wise vision of HH the Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani, which underpins the Qatar National Vision 2030, emphasizes the importance of health care and the achievement of the health well-being of the Qatari people alike.
In a speech at the opening of the International Diabetes Leadership Forum, Dr. Al-Kuwari said HH the Emir's commitment to promote population health is clearly evident through His Highness' firm support for the health of the Qatari people, referring to what HH the Emir said in his speech during the opening session of the 44th Session of the Shura Council that: "Our determination to continue the progress of our country and the welfare of our people doesn't stop at a border." Dr. Al Kuwari reviewed the achievements of the national strategy for health over the last five years including various important achievements, which have contributed to the upgrading of the care services' quality. In this context, she explained that through the National Strategy to Combat Diabetes 2016 - 2022 there is a real opportunity to focus attention on one of the most important health challenges in Qatar.
She warned that diabetes is one of the fastest diseases prevalent in the world and Qatar, noting that 1 out of 6 (about 17%) of Qatari adults are suffering from diabetes.
Thanks to the development of medical technology and the provision of health care in the State of Qatar, most of the patients were able to control the rate of diabetes within the required limits and learn how to live with it, she added.
Dr. Al Kuwari warned of diabetes complications that would affect the quality of diabetics' life, noting that the spending on diabetes in Qatar is about QAR 1.8 billion and that about 50% of diabetics patients develop kidney failure and receive dialysis; nearly half of all patients with acute coronary syndrome are diabetics and about 70% of cases of stroke have either diabetes or prediabetes.
According to estimations, the number of diabetics is expected to double over the next 40 years and the average cost of treatment is likely to rise to reach QAR 4.9 billion by 2035, HE the Minister of Public Health said.
Dr. Al Kuwari pointed to the importance of cooperation to further improve the quality of care in the community, primary health care centers and hospitals, noting that the changes to our lifestyle can make a significant impact in the fight against diabetes, including regular exercise, a balanced diet and quitting smoking as simple steps to significantly reduce the risk for diabetes.
She said that although this matter seems simple, the doctors have repeated for years that the whole world communities facing a real challenge in persuading individuals and support for such changes to their lifestyle.
The fight against diabetes should not be a challenge for the health sector only, but is the responsibility of the community starting from schools, teachers, imams of mosques, leaders of business community, government officials and community leaders, regulatory bodies and urban planning authorities.
It is also an individual responsibility which lies on every citizen and resident to protect himself and his family.
The International Diabetes Leadership Forum represents an opportunity to meet the challenges in a holistic and coordinated manner and encouraging local partners to play their part in defeating diabetes to support the next generation for a healthy and happy life.
HE Ambassador of Denmark, Merete Juhl highlighted International cooperation is essential to solving health challenges because even th0ugh we face the same diseases we have different approaches to tackle the problems - so we can learn from each other’s experiences, successes and failures. This is how we together bring about innovative ways of tackling these issues.
She added “we have a well established healthcare sector with comprehensive knowhow, welfare technologies and innovative medicines in Denmark - and when you combine this with the unique ambitions that the state of Qatar is putting into tackling diabetes, I believe that we together can make a difference in the way we organise our systems and for the people suffering from diabetes. Today’s forum is a culmination of such cross border cooperation and it is a great example that will pave the way for more to come.”
For his part, the President of IDF, Dr. Shaukat Shadikot said “Diabetes is like a Tsunami and the waves keep getting bigger and bigger. Today 415 million people in the world have diabetes and a significant percentage of the Gulf citizens either have diabetes or are very prone to get it.”
Dr. Shadikot added that All over the world the numbers of people with diabetes is increasing in leaps and bounds. Unfortunately, half the people who have diabetes do not even know thst they have diabetes! Today, diabetes is the largest cause of blindness, the largest cause of lower limb amputations after accidents with an amputation taking place every 20 seconds. One in three people undergoing dialysis or renal transplants has diabetes and 70 to 80% of people with diabetes have early onset heart disease! In fact in most parts of the world a pwrson dies of diabetes related complications every second!
“Let us all come together. Governments, the pharma companies, doctors, people with diabetes and all the population to fight this tsunami. We must accept that we are in a war against diabetes and that we are losing. But if we all work together we can build a wall and halt this tsunami. We can win this war against diabetes. The road ahead is not easy. But we can succeed,” said Dr. Shadikot.
WHO MENA Regional Director, Dr. Ala Alwan said that Qatar has already made a major progress in implementing the UN and WHO recommendations. WHO and the Ministry of health are planning a national multisectoral workshop to discuss the progress in preventing diabetes and other non communicable diseases and agree on the way forward. We are confident Qatar can become one of the leading countries in combating diabetes in this region and beyond.
Dr Ala added “Diabetes is on the rise globally. The prevalence in the Eastern Mediterranean region has more than doubled in 30 years. The estimated numbers increased from 6 million in 1980 to more than 43 million today. It is estimated that, every year, around 350,000 people from this region die directly from diabetes. The region currently has the highest rates of diabetes worldwide.”
He noted that diabetes shares the same risk factors with the other three major groups of non communicable diseases. They are caused by four major risk factors: unhealthy diet, physical inactivity, tobacco use and the harmful use of alcohol. These risk factors in turn result in overweight and obesity, diabetes and high blood pressure. In Qatar, more than three-quarters of adults are overweight and more than 80% of adolescents are insufficiently active. In fact, this region of the world is unfortunately the least physically active region.
DR. Ala pointed out that diabetes is a problem of major public health concern in all countries. By working jointly with the whole government and taking action to reduce the causative risk factors, diabetes can be prevented. For people with diabetes, access to optimal health care prevents complications and enables them to lead a normal, productive life.
On his part, the Managing Director of Maersk Oil Qatar, Lewis Affleck said that Maersk Oil was a founding member of ‘Action on Diabetes’, which is the leading Public Private partnership in Qatar in the field of diabetes and a major catalyst and contributor to the National Diabetes Strategy, as well as broader awareness and education about diabetes in the country.
He stressed that the strength of the partnership has been in how the public and private entities have actively worked in coordination, where each member brought their own strengths and assets to the table with aligned goals that support the needs of Qatar.
“For me it is clear from the past 5 years of hard work through ‘Action on Diabetes’ that diabetes is such as complex and far reaching issue that meaningful progress cannot be achieved alone, only together in partnership can progress be made today and for future generations,” added Affleck .
He expressed his proud of the contribution and achievements of ‘Action on Diabetes’ and urge other private companies to also take on the challenge and support this important and urgent cause of diabetes.
In his speech to the forum, the Corporate Vice President, Novo Nordisk, Mads Bo Larsen said that Novo Nordisk is a world leader in diabetes care, with 40,000 colleagues around the world. And for 92 years we’ve been focused on improving the lives of people with diabetes. As you can imagine, during that time, we’ve got to see first hand, the scale of this disease and the impact it can have on the lives of men, women, children, old and young and the number is growing.
Dr. Mariam Ali Abdulmalik, Managing Director of Primary Health Care Corporation, highlighted the need for diabetes education: “If we are to successfully tackle the challenges that diabetes presents to our society, it is vital that we focus on preventive measures by educating the public on how to live a healthy life, for example by eating healthy food and being active. This will help prevent the onset of diabetes and will also reduce obesity. We must also encourage those individuals at risk of developing the disease to ensure they are tested for diabetes to enable early detection and treatment. It is important that we continue to provide patients with information that will help them look after their own health, prevent the onset of diabetes, control the disease, and avoid any complications.”
In a press conference held on the sidelines of the forum, Sheikha Dr. Al-Anoud bin Mohamed Al-Thani, Manager of Health Promotion and Non Communicable Diseases said that Qatar’s National Diabetes Strategy is the important step on our journey to tackle this issue in Qatar; it is a very comprehensive and ambitious. We aim to break the curve and stop this growth in the prevalence of diabetes. To do this we must employ every measure at our disposal. It is our ambition to screen every citizen for diabetes regularly by 2022, but this is not something easy to do.
She added “by assembling the world’s greatest experts in diabetes, healthcare leaders, policy makers, private companies and NGOs to share ideas and best practices, we can accelerate our understanding of the issue to better tackle this disease.
I’m greatly encouraged by the discussions and collaboration here today, which will enable us to take the next critical steps towards developing a roadmap to turn our National Diabetes Strategy into reality.”
The forum features keynote speeches during the two-day conference will be given by a number of eminent speakers including Merete Juhl, Danish Ambassador to the U.A.E and Qatar, Dr. Shaukat Sadikot, President of the International Diabetes Federation (IDF), Dr. Egbert Schillings, CEO of World Innovation Summit for Health, QF, Dr. Anders Dejgaard, Managing Director of World Diabetes Federation, Dr. Mohamed bin Hamad Al-Thani, Director of Public Health, MoPH, Dr. Samya Al-Ahmad Abdulla, Director of Operations at PHCC, Qatar, Co-Chairs of the National Diabetes Committee Dr Al Anoud bint Mohamed Al Thani, Manager Health Promotion, MoPH. And Professor Abdul-Badi Abou Samra, Chairman of Internal Medicine at HMC.
The Qatar Diabetes Leadership Forum follows a pre-eminent line up of previous leadership forums held in New York (2007), Moscow (2008), Beijing (2009), MENA (Dubai 2010), Copenhagen (2012) and Istanbul (2013).