The diabetes epidemic in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region is one of the fastest growing epidemics globally.

According to findings published in Scientific Reports of the Nature Group, Jordan is confronted with a large and rising diabetes epidemic over the next 30 years. The number of people living with diabetes is projected to increase, testing the already strained healthcare system.

The study, ‘Characterizing the type 2 diabetes mellitus epidemic in Jordan up to 2050’, was the product of a research collaboration between the National Center for Diabetes, Endocrinology and Genetics in Jordan, Jordan University of Science and Technology, and Weill Cornell Medicine-Qatar (WCM-Q). The study investigated and forecasted diabetes burden up to 2050 and the estimated costs.

According to Professor Kamal Ajlouni, President of the National Center for Diabetes, Endocrinology and Genetics in Jordan, and co-investigator of the study, 15% of Jordanians are currently suffering from diabetes, already twice the global average.

By 2050, we forecasted that more than one in every five adults in Jordan will be suffering from diabetes. Diabetes prevalence will reach 21% if no immediate prevention programmes are implemented.

Jordan is destined to confront an immense healthcare challenge, but also an escalating health expenditure, says Dr Susanne Awad, research associate at WCM-Q and first author of the study.

The number of people suffering from diabetes in Jordan is projected to increase to two million by 2050, straining an already resource-strained healthcare system.

She added that if no large-scale population interventions are implemented, the country will spend one-quarter of its national health expenditure on diabetes.

Professor Yousef Khader of Jordan University of Science and Technology and co-investigator of this study, said that there are several causes to the diabetes epidemic such as sedentary lifestyle and smoking. However, the combined impact of these is much smaller than that of obesity. Most cases of diabetes are caused by the obesity epidemic in Jordan.

Currently, one-third of Jordanians are obese. It is projected that 41% will be obese by 2050, causing two-thirds of diabetes cases.

Professor Laith Abu-Raddad of WCM-Q and principal investigator of the study, said the study showed how critical it is to address the diabetes epidemic in Jordan. He said that there is a need to immediately focus on public health and lifestyle interventions to control, or even reverse the rising diabetes burden through individual- and population-based prevention approaches.

We need to focus on trying to decrease obesity and to prevent new diabetes cases from happening; otherwise we may not be able to afford the costs of dealing with such a large epidemic.

This study demonstrates the effectiveness of regional collaborations to characterise, better understand, and provide common solutions to diabetes, one of the primary health priorities in our region, added Professor Abu-Raddad.

The study was conducted with funding from Qatar National Research Fund, through the National Priorities Research Program.

Visit qatar-weill.cornell.edu for more information about their research programme.