Free check-ups

Diabetes, obesity and hypertension among diseases on rise in UAE and free check-ups are part of a week-long health initiative in capital.

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ABU DHABI // A week-long health initiative is under way in the capital to raise awareness of diseases that afflict a high number of people in the UAE. Four malls across the city - Marina Mall, Abu Dhabi Mall, Khalidiya Mall and Al Wahda Mall - are offering free check-ups to shoppers, and hosting health education talks.

Shoppers can be tested for hypertension, diabetes, and obesity - diseases which are all affecting growing numbers of people. Nurses will carry out the tests, measuring blood pressure, blood sugar levels and body mass indexes. "We want to approach the community as a whole, because the main objective is raising the health care in the country as a whole," said Dr Islam Fahmi, supervisor of network and management care for Green Crescent, the health insurance company supporting the initiative.

One in five people in the UAE have diabetes, according to Dr Fahmi. He said although people could treat Type 2 diabetes by taking medication, education would also help. An early diagnosis, he said, would increase the possibility of a cure or, at least, prevent the disease from worsening. Early diagnosis would also alleviate the strain on the health care system caused by people not finding out they had a disease until it was nearly beyond treatment.

The UAE also has the highest rate of obesity in the Gulf. "The UAE will have a big problem with these diseases. Whenever you can reach people and let them know what they have in advance the cost of the treatment will be less," said Sara Darwish, senior public relations executive of ExHealth, the Dubai firm that conceived the initiative. Part of Green Crescent's campaign is encouraging people to take part in regular activity.

"When I say regular activity, I don't mean three hours in the gym. It can just be 30 or 40 minutes, walking or jogging," Dr Fahmi said. A simple change of lifestyle, including a healthier diet and a little more exercise, can help prevent these and other diseases from developing, he said. The health initiative has had positive feedback. "A lot of people, they come and they are interested," Dr Fahmi said. "They want to know more about the diseases and what they can do to prevent them. Malls attract significant numbers of people. We don't want to wait for people to come to us, we want to bring services to their doorsteps."

The initiative, which is being supervised by the Health Authority Abu Dhabi, was launched on Tuesday to mark World Health Day.
arolandi@thenational.ae