Health & Education

Well Aware

TBY talks to Dr Saf Naqvi, Medical Director, Consultant Physician, and Endocrinologist at Imperial College London Diabetes Centre, on the importance of raising awareness of the disease, and what sets the Centre apart.

Why is Imperial College London Diabetes Centre so committed to raising public health awareness in the UAE?

When Imperial College London Diabetes Centre opened in the UAE capital, Abu Dhabi, in late 2006, the topic of personal health and wellness was considered a very private conversation. These issues rarely touched the public domain, including the media, with individuals often choosing not to discuss their health with family members, let alone friends and colleagues. Therefore, from the word go, it was clear to us that the state of the nation’s health is a conversation that must be had every day. Just a few months after the center opened its doors to offer world-class treatment to manage and even prevent diabetes, Imperial College London Diabetes Centre activated its promise to public health awareness by launching the nationwide campaign, Diabetes-Knowledge-Action. Today, Imperial College London Diabetes Centre’s commitment to public health awareness makes Diabetes-Knowledge-Action the UAE’s longest running public health awareness campaign. Indeed, we are noticing a tipping point as more and more individuals, organizations, and media titles not only engage in the topic, but also specifically discuss the attributes of embracing a healthy lifestyle. The importance of this conversation can’t be understated as a look at the latest figures in the International Diabetes Federation’s Diabetes Atlas, November 2014 showed that more people than ever are living with diabetes—some 387 million people worldwide. This is up from 286 million in 2007 when Diabetes-Knowledge-Action was launched.

What is Imperial College London Diabetes Centre doing to help engage the public embrace of health and wellness?

Imperial College London Diabetes Centre works closely with various health bodies, government and private hospitals, and primary care services within the UAE to facilitate a holistic approach to treating diabetes. Aside from offering world-class treatment at our two centres, one each in Abu Dhabi and Al Ain, Imperial College London Diabetes Centre’s emphasis on public health awareness also continues. As mentioned, our public health awareness campaign, Diabetes-Knowledge-Action, is focused on sharing information, facts, tips, and stories surrounding diabetes prevention, symptoms, and lifestyle support activities. The campaign message stands loyal to the attributes of a healthy lifestyle in keeping diabetes and its related complications at bay. A healthy lifestyle is achieved by embracing a balanced diet and at least 30 minutes of brisk exercise each day, while maintaining a normal body weight. Our team coordinate many events, workshops, seminars, and presentations, visiting schools, universities, and companies, often with two or more events each week. Indeed, the campaign has helped place diabetes and a healthy lifestyle firmly in the public arena. In the first three months of 2007, records show that Imperial College London Diabetes Centre was alone in releasing news stories and articles about diabetes and the positive outcomes of a healthy lifestyle. By the end of that year, a handful of other organizations had joined in the conversation and the local media were regularly calling in to the center for material and comments to support articles about a whole host of personal health issues. Today, in the era of Facebook, it is thrilling to see personal wellness and a healthy lifestyle positioned regularly as trending hot topics, with Imperial College London Diabetes Centre and Diabetes-Knowledge-Action still enjoying a leading share-of-voice.