A research collaboration between Oman’s Ministry of Health and Weill Cornell Medicine-Qatar (WCM-Q) has predicted that Oman is facing a rapidly rising diabetes epidemic over the coming three decades.

According to findings published in the Journal of Diabetes Investigation, the number of people with diabetes will continue to grow, making it challenging to control the epidemic if no major preventive interventions are implemented now.

A study titled, “Forecasting the type 2 diabetes mellitus epidemic and the role of key risk factors in Oman up to 2050: Mathematical modeling analyses”, investigated and forecasted diabetes burden and its associated economic costs up to 2050.

“Oman’s national surveys revealed that diabetes prevalence has been increasing in the past two decades,” said Dr Adhra al-Mawali, director of the Research and Studies Centre at the Ministry of Health in Oman and co-investigator of this study. “These figures were alarming, so we needed to conduct this forecasting study to assess future trends and costs of diabetes in Oman. The findings of the study confirmed our fears. Diabetes prevalence will continue to grow and will reach 24% by 2050. One in every four Omanis will be suffering from diabetes if no major intervention is implemented”.

Dr Susanne Awad, research associate at WCM-Q and first author of the study, said, “Our predictions showed that Oman will witness a nearly 200% increase in the number of people suffering from diabetes over the next three decades. Nearly 70% of this rapid increase in diabetes is due to the high prevalence of obesity. Oman is confronted with a serious challenge caused by the growing obesity epidemic which will drive the already high diabetes epidemic to higher levels and women are at higher risk and higher prevalence.”

Dr Jawad al-Lawati, senior consultant at the Ministry of Health in Oman and co-investigator of the study said: “Diabetes is already consuming 21% of Oman’s health expenditure and it is projected to consume nearly 30% of health expenditure by 2050. This confirms that diabetes needs to be the primary health priority in Oman. Oman provides currently national health services to all Omanis free of charge but ensuring the long-run financial sustainability for diabetes care is a concern, given how rapidly diabetes needs are growing. These findings highlight the need for large-scale population-level interventions that emphasise diabetes prevention and reduction of obesity.”

Prof Laith Abu-Raddad, professor of population health sciences at WCM-Q and principal investigator of the study, said, “The study found that the costs of diabetes care in Oman will reach one billion US dollars per year by 2050. Having said so, this challenge is regional as we have previously also found similar trends in Qatar and other countries. This demonstrates the need for regional cooperation to address this epidemic. This study shows the effectiveness of regional collaborations to better understand the epidemic and to provide solutions.”

“I am delighted to observe the successful utilisation of the methodologies and models resulting from one of QNRF-funded projects in this collaborative study between Omani and Qatari institutions which provides a timely reminder of addressing the rising diabetes rates in Qatar, Oman and the whole of Mena region. As the region’s premier research funding entity, Qatar National Research Fund is driven by its commitment to improve the health and lifestyle of our populations by enabling impact-driven scientific research that directly informs public health policy and programs to address our foremost health challenges including diabetes.” said Dr Abdul Sattar al-Taie, executive director at Qatar National Research Fund.