According to statistics, one in three children or adolescents is overweight or obese in the UAE. If the problem continues to rise, the country could find itself with far-reaching problems.
This is the warning issued by Dr El Zaqui Ladha, consultant for bariatric and general surgery at Bareen International Hospital, who stresses that the cost of dealing with such an obesity crisis could be huge.
“Obesity is the link to various health disorders including diabetes, arthritis, cardiovascular problems and even cancer,” he explained.
“If left unchecked, it becomes more than just a health issue. It can affect insurance and future social security systems. The government will have to spend more in upgrading its health and medical infrastructures.”
Authorities have already taken steps to tackle the problem.
The Department of Health Abu Dhabi, in partnership with the Yas Conference Centre and VPS Healthcare, recently organised a workshop of 13 government entities to discuss the obesity problem and try to develop sustainable programmes that will encourage the country’s youth to live healthily.
Dr Shamsheer Vayalil, chairman and managing director of VPS Healthcare, said, “Given the high prevalence of obesity in the UAE, it is pivotal for the public and private sector to collaborate more and raise awareness about this condition.”
Dr Ladha agreed, emphasising that the move is a step in the right direction, but that it needs to be followed up by more action.
“Schools and health centres are good starting points, but cooperation from parents will be crucial,” he said.
“Parents should set the right example by adding more fruit and vegetables into diets at home, incorporating exercise and sport into family activities and educating their kids on the dangers of consuming too much junk food. Everything starts at home.”