Haad increases screening and intervention

Emiratis encouraged to screen for diabetes and heart disease. 'We want people to make the right choices on their own' doctors say.

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ABU DHABI // The Health Authority - Abu Dhabi is increasing screening initiatives for UAE nationals to battle obesity and its associated chronic diseases.

The authority, known as Haad, is strengthening the second phase of its Weqaya screening programme, which offers free screenings for Emiratis over the age of 18. It screens for diabetes and heart disease by measuring and evaluating indicators such as body mass index, smoking and lipid levels.

In the first phase, between 2007 and 2010, more than 180,000 nationals were screened, covering nearly 94 per cent of the adult Emirati population in the emirate.

Of those, 36 per cent were found to be obese, 17 per cent had hypertension and 21 per cent had diabetes.

In the current phase, Haad is improving intervention methods.

"We will look at how many of these are modifiable risks and enrol them into a programme to bring the risks down," said Dr Khaled Al Jaberi, department manager of non-communicable disease at Haad.

"Previously there was some delay in getting the results. Now we've fixed all these issues by training the physicians in terms of what type of intervention is needed at what level of risk.

"We're making sure people are assigned the clinical pathway they need at the time they receive the results, within five days."

Nationals can be screened at one of 48 private and public healthcare centres in Abu Dhabi.

In the programme's first phase, 9,000 people discovered they had diabetes. "You can imagine the difference this would make to their lives when we have an opportunity to prevent future complications," Dr Al Jaberi said.

As an incentive, Emiratis who undergo screening will be able to renew their Thiqa cards once every three years, instead of the usual one.

"We don't want to force anything upon anyone but sometimes people need a little guidance in caring for their health," Dr Al Jaberi said.

"At the end of the day, we want people to make the right choice on their own."