According to a study published in the Journal of Diabetes Investigation, Oman is facing a rapidly rising diabetes epidemic over the coming three decades.

The study titled, ‘Forecasting the type 2 diabetes mellitus epidemic and the role of key risk factors in Oman up to 2050: Mathematical modeling analyses’, was conducted by a research collaboration between the Oman Ministry of Health and Weill Cornell Medicine-Qatar (WCM-Q). The study investigated and forecasted diabetes burden and its associated economic costs up to 2050.

Rise of Diabetes in MENA

diabetes-blood-sugar-diabetic-medicine-46173The Middle East and North Africa is the region most affected by diabetes worldwide. Several countries have already reached a diabetes level that is twice the global average. The number of people with diabetes will continue to grow, making it challenging to control the epidemic if no major preventive interventions are implemented now.

Oman’s national surveys revealed that diabetes prevalence has been increasing in the past two decades, says Dr Adhra Al Mawali, director of the Research and Studies Centre at the Ministry of Health in Oman and co-investigator of the study.

These figures were alarming, so we needed to conduct this forecasting study to assess future trends and costs of diabetes in Oman. The findings of the study confirmed our fears. Diabetes prevalence will continue to grow and will reach 24% by 2050. One in every four Omanis will be suffering from diabetes if no major intervention is implemented.

WCM-Q research associate and first author of the study, Dr Susanne Awad, said their predictions showed that Oman will witness nearly 200% increase in the number of people suffering from diabetes over the next three decades.

Nearly 70% of this rapid increase in diabetes is due to the high prevalence of obesity. Oman is confronted with a serious challenge caused by the growing obesity epidemic which will drive the already high diabetes epidemic to higher levels and women are at higher risk and higher prevalence.

According to another co-investigator of the study, Dr Jawad Al Lawati, senior consultant at the Ministry of Health in Oman, diabetes is already consuming 21% of Oman’s health expenditure and is projected to consume nearly 30% of the country’s health expenditure by 2050.

This confirms that diabetes needs to be the primary health priority in Oman. Oman currently provides national health services to all Omanis free-of-charge but ensuring the long-run financial sustainability for diabetes care is a concern, given how rapidly these needs are growing.

These findings highlight the need for large-scale population-level interventions that emphasise diabetes prevention and reduction of obesity.

Professor Laith Abu-Raddad, professor of population health sciences at WCM-Q and principal investigator of the study, said that based on the study, the cost of diabetes care in Oman will reach one billion US dollars per year by 2050.

The challenge is regional, says Professor Abu-Raddad, as they previously found similar trends in Qatar and in other countries in MENA. He said that this demonstrates the need for regional cooperation to address the epidemic. The study shows the effectiveness of regional collaborations to better understand the epidemic and to provide solutions.

Hamad Medical Corp. Diabetes Prevention Programme
(Image file from Hamad Medical Corporation)

Qatar National Research Fund (QNRF) Executive Director Dr Abdul Sattar Al Taie, said he was happy to observe the successful utilisation of the methodologies and models in the collaborative study between the two institutions from Qatar and Oman, as it provides a timely reminder to address the rising diabetes cases in the MENA region.

As the region’s premier research funding entity, Dr Al Taie said that QNRF is driven by its commitment to improve the health and lifestyle of populations by enabling ‘impact-driven’ scientific research that directly informs public health policy and programmes to address health challenges including diabetes.

The study was conducted utilising research methodologies developed with funding from QNRF through the National Priorities Research Program.

For updates and more information, visit qatar-weill.cornell.edu.