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For example, the average hospital count per 10,000 people here is 21.6 beds, much lower than developed economies such as the UK suggests that over 70% of the Saudi population is alarmingly obese. KSA and


the UAE make up the two largest populations in the GCC.


compared to that of US. In addition, over the last few decades in the Middle East,


enormous prosperity had bred a changing culture that leans more towards sedentary lifestyles and fast food diets. As a result, major health problems have rocketed in the UAE and the wider region. Non-communicable diseases (NCD’s)


– are increasing at an alarming rate. The epidemiology profile of the region includes high incidences of obesity, hypertension and diabetes mellitus, particularly Type-2. The latter has been the leading cause of cardiovascular disease, kidney failure and amputations. The complications caused by these diseases will further increase long- term burdening and already over-stretched healthcare system. The World Health Organisation determined that a third of adults in the UAE are obese, and one in five people live with diabetes. In 2007, the UAE ranked second highest in the world for diabetes prevalence, followed by the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA). The Saudi Diabetes and Endocrine Association (SEDA)


THE DEMAND FOR HEALTHCARE INCREASES As the incidences of lifestyle diseases increase, these populations, leveraged by increased prosperity, will demand a greater quality of healthcare. Demand growth in this segment will act as an incentive for private investors to establish multi-disciplinary hospitals and specialised centres for complex diseases. Such investment will increase competitiveness and improve the quality of services. Private hospitals are generally preferred due to:  Excessive queues at public facilities  Capacity saturation within public care (overburdened emergency rooms and hospital beds)  Lack of specialised treatment and facilities in rural areas  Higher efficiency in private care. Limited opening hours of government hospitals has also been cited as a reason for referrals to private hospitals. These factors have placed added pressure on the healthcare market and can be met by more private investment. The existing healthcare infrastructure in the MENA region is currently insufficient.


(33.8) and the US (31.0). It is estimated that that the region lacks about 200,000 hospital beds currently and this has to be addressed immediately or it will increase. The present system has around 18 qualified physicians per 10,000 people compared to 27 each in the UK and the US, indicating a shortage of about 179,000 specialists. The region also lacks medical professionals such as dentists, nurses and midwives. According to WHO, in terms


«The cause for concern is that even though the standard of living in the GCC region is very high, the healthcare infrastructure is far below that of the developed economies»


of trained medical staff per 10,000 people in 2010, the MENA region had 3.5 dentistry personnel and 28.4 nurses and midwives, which is nearly 79% and 71% lower, respectively, compared to the US. It is ironical that in this part of the world there are more graduates in humanities than in science and engineering, as a result of which it has fewer numbers of qualified physicians, nurses and midwives, and dentistry personnel. An active policy initiative aimed at these shortcomings will not only supply more qualified physicians and medicine practitioners but at the same time address another key regional problem: job creation. 


Arab Health Issue 5 2011 13


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