Alarming Survey on Diabetes in Lebanon!

A survey on diabetes awareness levels in ten countries of the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) has concluded that the Lebanese are the most aware of key disease facts with only 18% of respondents falsely considering that diabetes cannot cause heart diseases versus much higher misinformation on the fact that it can reaching all the way up to 80% in Iran. Only 19% of Lebanese respondents also falsely considered that diabetes cannot cause stroke versus up to 89% in Iran and 32% in Saudi Arabia not being well informed that it can.

As far as screening goes, a vital tool for detecting and managing the disease, only 20% of those found to be at risk for developing diabetes in Lebanon have not been tested for the disease versus a regional average of 37%.

Conducted in October 2010 in Algeria, Egypt, Iran, Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon, Morocco, Saudi Arabia, Tunisia and the United Arab Emirates, the survey done by statistics company Ipsos Emirates Health at the instigation and funding of international pharmaceutical company Novo Nordisk assessed the level of awareness and knowledge among the general population with regard to causes, risks and complications of diabetes.

It also investigated respondents’ risk of developing diabetes based on a risk score methodology. With over 3,000 interviews, the respondents were representative of the demographic and socioeconomic profile in each country.

The survey shows that 40% of respondents – ranging from 21% in Iran to 54% in Egypt – are at risk of developing diabetes in the MENA region, a very high figure compared to currently available rates on diabetes prevalence.

The risk in Lebanon was slightly higher, with the survey revealing 45% of respondents risk developing diabetes at some point in the future.

Despite a high awareness level of the scale of the disease, especially in Lebanon, myths about diabetes remain very common with 31% of Algerian respondents for example falsely believing that diabetes is contagious. In Lebanon 13% of survey respondents falsely believe diabetes is a communicable disease.

“The results of the MENA diabetes awareness survey are striking,” said Dr. Rita Sfeir, Novo Nordisk Lebanon Country Manager. “Despite relatively high awareness levels in Lebanon, the need to further educate the general public about the risk factors, complications and severity of the condition is very clear. We hope that the initiative will inspire authorities to tackle this issue. We believe that early detection of diabetes, prevention and education can make a difference; both in terms of people living longer and healthier lives and in terms of health systems saving substantial costs.”

Earlier this year, Novo Nordisk, the world leader in diabetes care, launched a Journalism Award in Lebanon providing prizes of US$6,000 to print and broadcast journalists who feature the topic in lay media.

“I would like to take this opportunity to announce that more information on the award – now named “How Sweet is your Future?” in line with a more extensive awareness campaign we intend to launch in 2011 – will be made available shortly,” added Sfeir.

Diabetes in the MENA region is growing as a consequence of rapid economic development, changing diet and sedentary lifestyles. It now affects an estimated 26.6 million people in the region, imposing overwhelming demands on healthcare institutions and excessive financial burdens on governments. As alarming as this picture is, the number of people with diabetes in the region is expected to double to 51.7 million people by 2030, imposing an enormous toll in both human and financial terms.