Cash prizes worth a total of Dh20,000 ($5,444) have been offered by a hospital in Ras Al Khaimah to people to become healthy, prompting hundreds to lose weight and tackle their diabetes risk.
A 12-week diabetes challenge by RAK Hospital and the Ministry of Health and Prevention, Ras Al Khaimah, was launched on September 24.
There are top prizes of Dh5,000 ($1,361) each to the man and woman who best reduces their diabetes biomarkers and lowers their body mass index (BMI).
The community challenge is expected to attract more than 5,000 entrants, and also offers two prizes of Dh3,000 and two of Dh2,000 to runners-up.
Blood sugar levels attached to haemoglobin (HbA1c) were tested in each participant before the three-month period began and will be assessed on December 20.
Haemoglobin transports oxygen around the body and is an important indicator for how well diabetes is controlled.
A normal indicator is below 5.7 per cent, whereas a reading from 5.7 to 6.4 per cent could indicate pre-diabetes.
Anything above that would determine someone has Type 2 diabetes, a condition usually linked to poor lifestyle.
Brian D’Mello, 42, from India, weighed about 122kg before deciding to sign up for the challenge.
“I did my test last week and the diabetes markers were on the high side, even though I had already lost a bit of weight since starting to exercise,” he said.
“There is a history of diabetes in my family, but I know I don’t have the best lifestyle.
“I like to eat, particularly fried foods, so I had some bad habits.
“I started just at weekends, but then it crept into the week, so I’ve had to make some changes.
“When I heard about this campaign I thought it would be good motivation for me.”
Those who have entered the competition received a lifestyle score determined on the basis of their current habits including exercise frequency, diet and physical activity levels alongside an evaluation for BMI and HbA1c.
The winners will be chosen by a medical jury, with criteria for judging based on positive lifestyle changes, improved BMI and reduced HbA1C during the campaign.
Mr D’Mello hopes to get his weight down to 95kg by the end of the challenge.
He is a salesman with a wife, two brothers and a sister in the UAE, and was encouraged to take part by his family.
He has cut out all red meat, fried fish and rice, as well as reducing the size of his meal portions.
Regular walks have helped him to lose weight.
“The doctor said I had to make changes as soon as possible. I rarely get ill so assumed I was healthy,” he said.
“Since I started to lose a bit of weight I already feel better, and some of my clothes are fitting again, so it is motivating.
“If I win any of the money, I’ll give it to my wife.
“I would like to join a gym with her so we can keep it going. We want to start our own family, so we need to be healthy.”
Winners of an online category for men and women will receive RAK Hospital gift vouchers and other sponsored prizes.
Other male and female participants judged to be in the top 10 will receive an RAK Hospital Swiss health check voucher.
Midhun John Martin, a 20-year-old student in Ras Al Khaimah, is taking part.
“My dad has diabetes, so it was something I am aware of, and I wanted to make sure I would not have it also,” he said.
“I go to the gym quite often and I try to watch my calories.
“I am a bit more heavy than I would like to be so I want to decrease my BMI and lose a bit of weight.
“Ideally, I want to lose some body fat, and lose around 6kg. If I won the money I would give it to my dad.
“My friends have been really encouraging, so hopefully I can see some progress after the 12 weeks.”
Throughout the challenge, trainers and health professionals will guide contestants with weekly webinars, daily tips and education sessions, supporting them in making healthy lifestyle changes and working on management programmes suitable for their individual requirements.
Diabetes on the rise
The prevalence of Type 2 diabetes is increasing worldwide. The UAE has one of the world’s highest rates at around 18.7 per cent.
It is expected to reach 21.4 per cent by 2030.
Doctors said lifestyle changes can prevent diabetes and should be widely encouraged to bring those numbers down.
“Intensive lifestyle intervention can indeed replace prescription medication,” said Dr Raza Siddiqui, executive director at RAK Hospital.
“Our idea is to help people understand that just popping a pill is not the solution until they are actually committed to altering their lifestyle.
“There is no cure for diabetes, but remission is greatly possible by following a healthy lifestyle.
“With this move, we want to educate the community on how diabetes can be managed efficiently without much dependence on medications,” Dr Siddiqui said.