Duba, UAE: Road traffic injuries are the main cause of disability among men in the region, according to a new study. Add to that is the burden of non-communicable diseases which together erodes the process of progress.
The study, published in The Lancet Global Health recently, finds that people in Gulf countries are living longer than in the 1990s, but challenges like traffic accidents, back and neck pain, and diabetes could erode that progress.
Traffic injuries represent a “worrisome trend,” and in high-income countries, they are the leading cause of years lost or lived with disabilities, according to the report. “This bears grave economic implications, as men in this part of the world tend to be the primary breadwinners of the family,” it states.
It also finds that across the Eastern Mediterranean Region, improved health conditions and life expectancy over the past 20 years are being subverted by wars and civil unrest.
The paper titled “Health in times of uncertainty in the Eastern Mediterranean region, 1990-2013: a systematic analysis for the Global Burden of Disease Study 2013” also finds that chronic diseases, such as heart disease and diabetes, cause a greater burden to health in the region overall than communicable diseases like diarrheal diseases and tuberculosis.
“The region needs attention in this critical health phase,” said Dr Ali Mokdad, Director for Middle Eastern Initiatives at the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) at the University of Washington in Seattle.
The study examines 22 nations in Central Asia, the Middle East, and North Africa between 1990 and 2013. It is based on findings from the Global Burden of Diseases, Injuries, and Risk Factors Study (GBD) coordinated by IHME.
The GBD is the largest and most comprehensive effort covering 188 countries from 1990 to 2013, 306 diseases and injuries, 1,233 sequelae, (after effects of a disease or injury) and 79 risk factors.
“In the past decade the region has experienced improved health and life expectancy, but recent distress in the region will result in deteriorating health conditions in these countries for many years to come,” said Dr Mokdad.
“Several Gulf states have made significant progress against ailments like premature births, ischemic heart disease, and respiratory diseases; there now are challenges related to obesity, mental health, and drug use. If left unchecked, these problems could have dire consequences,” he explained.
In high-income countries of the region, the top five causes of health burden in 2013 were: road injuries, low back and neck pain, diabetes, heart disease, and depression.
The rise of diabetes is particularly alarming. Between 1990 and 2013, the health burden of diabetes increased in Oman by 24.4 per cent, in Kuwait by 51.7 per cent, and in Saudi Arabia – where it is the number one cause of disability and death – by 90.9 per cent. In the UAE, diabetes affects 14.6 per cent adults with 1,384 deaths in 2015 alone.
Deaths from diabetes also pose a heavy burden on many countries with deaths increasing from 12 to 19 per 100,000 people.
Years of good health lost to communicable, maternal, neonatal, and nutritional disorders in the region dropped from 109 million to 73 million from 1990 to 2013.
Across the region, mental health and drug use disorders have increased significantly since 1990 and have taken a greater toll. In several countries, depression and opioid use were in the top six causes of health loss in 2013, with the health toll of both ailments significantly increasing over two decades.
In Qatar, opioid use was the number one cause of health disability and death, with its toll rising 18.9 per cent since 1990.
“Nations must invest in health infrastructure and information systems now to stave off even worse health conditions in the future. These investments would impact not only the region but the rest of the world.”
The report also notes environmental challenges in the region. Climate change has resulted in increased temperatures, and a major portion of the area is projected to be uninhabitable in the future. In addition, water shortages are a major threat to health and security in many Eastern Mediterranean countries.
© Khaleej TimesSep 2016