UAE calls for new roadmap to fight obesity

The international community needs to double efforts to draw a new roadmap to deliver UN goals on obesity and diabetes by 2025, a senior UAE health official told the opening session of the Gulf Obesity Summit and Regional Congress 2018 in Abu Dhabi on Thursday.

Farida Al Hosani, Manager, Communicable Diseases, Department of Health in Abu Dhabi, said global obesity rates had more than doubled since 1980.

Locally, she stated that the Abu Dhabi Childhood Obesity taskforce, which is composed of 12 government entities, had developed a comprehensive plan to address childhood obesity in the emirate. The plan is a result of a cross-sector evaluation that assessed existing efforts to fight childhood obesity, challenges and opportunities, in addition to benchmarking against World Health Organisation (WHO) recommendations and best international practice.

WHO statistics reveal that during 2014-2015, 15.1 percent of school students in the Emirate of Abu Dhabi were obese, while 16.7 percent ??of them were overweight. A related study also revealed that only 27 percent of students engaged in 60 minutes of physical activity every day.

''The Abu Dhabi Children's Obesity Task Force's plan to reduce obesity aims to increase physical activity in children by 15 percent and reduce the average body mass index by 15 percent by 2020,'' she added.

She indicated that Etihad Airways has collaborated with Department of Health Abu Dhabi, to introduce Weqaya, a range of healthy food items, available onboard its flights and lounges. Since April this year, Etihad Airways began offering a number of Weqaya dishes on first and business class menus on long-haul and ultra-long haul outbound flights from Abu Dhabi, and first and business class lounges at Abu Dhabi International Airport.

Weqaya, meaning prevention, is a programme established by Department of Health Abu Dhabi with the aim of encouraging people to eat a healthy and balanced diet to promote good health and wellbeing.

The Department of Education and Knowledge in Abu Dhabi called for strict control on school canteens and more focus on healthy diet to curb prevalence of overweight and obese schoolchildren.

In a working paper, the department officials said that statistics showed that one in every three school-age children is obese or overweight, and 17 per cent of schoolchildren are known to be obese.

The first regional obesity congress in the Middle East is being held under the theme ''Achieving the UN targets by 2025."

Organisers say to meet the UN targets for ‘no increase in obesity by 2025’ the region has to invest in effective treatment services and effective prevention measures at local and national level. The summit and congress will examine what services will be needed by 2025 and will examine the benefits of different approaches to weight management, weight reduction, and the prevention of weight gain and weight re-gain. The agenda will be delivered by renowned regional and international faculty. This is a two-day congress with a mixture of lectures, discussions, symposiums, abstract presentations, posters and exhibition.

Topics highly relevant to the Gulf region will be considered, including the best means of promoting physical activity, the complications of dietary interventions in Ramadan, the treatment of adolescents with obesity, and options for weight management during pregnancy. 

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