Qatar is striving to transform the treatment of diabetes with the project of "the whole nation"


In a non-important office in the Doha hospital, a study is underway to change the way Qatar deals with one of the most persistent health issues – diabetes.

A small team, led by Professor Khalid Hussain, has entered young people into the age group of up to 18 years of age with diabetes in a national database, which he claimed to be unique in the region and perhaps even in the world.

"What we want to do is to hire every child with diabetes in Qatar in our research project," says Hussain, who runs the project from her office in the medical complex of the capital of Sidra.

Goal? To find out how many children in a small gulf of the emirate suffers from chronic disease in order to determine the type and adjust the treatment accordingly.

"By understanding different types … we actually change the lives of patients," adds Hussain.

One of the three fat ones

Diabetes – a disease in which blood sugar levels in the body are too high – is common throughout the world.

The World Health Organization (WHO) says the number of people with this disease increased from 108 million in 1980 to 422 million in 2014.

The Gulf region, including Qatar, is no exception.

Poor diets, sweet drinks and lack of physical exercise, together with family marriage and genetics, were listed as the reasons for the prevalence of diabetes in the region.

A WHO study from 2017 estimates that 72 per cent of adults in Katar is currently overweight and 34 per cent living with obesity.

A study by Professor Hussain hopes to determine the overall level of diabetes in Qatar and find a breakdown between types 1 and 2.

For type 1, which is generally diagnosed in childhood, the body destroys cells in the pancreas that produce insulin, a hormone that controls the level of blood sugar.

For type 2, caused by the way of life and genetics, the body makes some insulin, but not enough.

This other form of illness is highly correlated with obesity and can eventually lead to blindness, renal impairment and heart disease or stroke.

Researchers at Weill Cornell Medicine predict that Type 2 diabetes in Qatar will jump from around 17 percent of the population to around 24 percent by 2050.

"We hope that by mid-2019 we will know how many children in this country have diabetes and what types of them are," says Hussain.

"As a doctor, it's more important for me to know what kind of diabetes a child has."

Thus, they can "adjust their treatment", adds.

It is expected that as many as 1,200 children with diabetes – Kataris and emigrants – will participate in the project, Hussain says, with the first findings published in July.

No more needles

The small size and enormous wealth of Qatar helps to make Professor Hussain's study possible.

He said that only "Norway and Sweden" were trying to achieve "the whole picture".

His office can be modest, but he sits in the new medical center of Sidre worth $ 8 billion and overlooks 14 giant bronze sculptures by artist Damien Hirst, who marked the moment of conception until birth – evidence of Qatar's wealth.

Zain al-Yahri implements weekly diabetic camps not related to the Sidra study to help children cope with the disease.

He says that diabetes affects not only children, but also their parents.

"A lot of children here, especially in Qatar or in the Middle East, when children become diabetic, parents feel as if they failed," says Yahri.

The camp is an eight-year-old Ali Mohamed Ali Alazba.

"I have two brothers who are bigger than me and have diabetes," he says.

"So at home we have three who have diabetes."

Back in Sidra, Professor Hussain says his study is already affected.

Speaking to AFP, he intended to tell a 15-year-old patient that he would no longer need injections of "hating him" – and instead used oral medicines to treat diabetes.

"If we can begin to work on them early, identify them now and prevent them from developing diabetes as adults, we will achieve something," he says.

The study reveals the current level of diagnosis of type 1 and type 2 diabetes in adults in America

© 2019 AFP

Qatar seeks to transform the concern for diabetes with the project of "the whole nation" (2019, 13 April)
ordered on 13 April 2019

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