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One in Four Qataris Likely to be Diabetic by 2050: WCM-Q Study

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Researchers at Weill Cornell Medicine-Qatar (WCM-Q) predicted that Type 2 Diabetes prevalence in Qatar will soar from 17% in 2012 to at least 24% by 2050.

Qatar is already one of the countries most affected by Type 2 Diabetes worldwide and according to findings published in Diabetes Research and Clinical Practice, this epidemic is set to worsen in the next three decades, driven by the ageing population and high levels of obesity.

The WCM-Q study, ‘Forecasting the Burden of Type 2 Diabetes Mellitus in Qatar to 2050: A Novel Modeling Approach’, was conducted with funding from Qatar National Research Fund (QNRF), a Qatar Foundation member, through the National Priorities Research Programme.

The study used sophisticated mathematical modeling techniques to forecast diabetes burden in the Qatari population up to 2050. Despite already being over twice the global average, with 17% of Qataris currently living with diabetes, it was projected that at least one in every four adult Qataris will have diabetes by 2050 (See Figure 1).

WCM-Q Figure 1

Figure 1

The researchers also calculated the likely economic costs accompanying the rise in the prevalence of diabetes.

Susanne Awad, first author of the study and senior mathematical epidemiologist at the Infectious Disease Epidemiology Group at WCM-Q, said they not only projected an alarming increase in the diabetes epidemic, but they also forecasted a high burden of diabetes on Qatar’s health expenditure.

While diabetes is already consuming about 20% of Qatar’s national health expenditure, it will consume nearly one-third of the national health expenditure by 2050, according to our model.’

One of the main findings of the study is that most cases of diabetes are due to obesity. The fraction of Qataris who are obese stands currently at 41%, but was projected by the study to increase to 51% by 2050. The study also forecasts that, by 2050, 66% of diabetes cases will be caused by obesity (See Figure 2).

Figure 2

Figure 2

Professor Laith Abu-Raddad, principal investigator of the study and professor of healthcare policy and research at WCM-Q, said that though there are several causes of Qatar’s diabetes epidemic such as direct genetic factors – low levels of physical activity and smoking – the combined role of these factors was relatively minor compared to obesity. He said that obesity is by far the leading driver of the diabetes epidemic in Qatar.

The study provided a framework for generating strategic information to inform public health policy, programming and resource allocation at the national level. The framework also offers a platform for extensions to assess the impact and cost-effectiveness of interventions against diabetes and its leading risk factors.

It is a priority to focus on public health and lifestyle interventions to control, or even reverse the rising diabetes burden through individual- and population-based prevention approaches. These approaches remain to be tested to determine their feasibility and effectiveness in Qatar.’

The research was made possible through support from the QNRF grant (NPRP 7-627-3-167).

Dr Khaled Machaca, associate dean of research at WCM-Q, said that they are committed to developing strategies to tackle the rise of obesity and diabetes in Qatar. This study gives them a better understanding of the nature of the diabetes disease burden in Qatar and will therefore help to effectively target future interventions.

Key Scientific Findings of the Study

  • The fraction of Qataris with type 2 diabetes is forecasted to grow by 43% by 2050.
  • The annual number of new type 2 diabetes cases is forecasted to grow by 147% by 2050.
  • Type 2 diabetes is forecasted to consume one-third of Qatar’s health expenditure by 2050.
  • Obesity is the main driver of the type 2 diabetes epidemic, causing two-thirds of all new cases.

For more information and updates about the WCM-Q study, visit their website at qatar-weill.cornell.edu.

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