• Overview
  • Obesity prevalence
  • Population breakdowns
  • Drivers
  • Comorbidities
  • Health systems
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Obesity prevalence

Adults, 2017-2018

Survey type:Measured
Age:18+
Sample size:4971
Area covered:National
References:UAE National HEalth Survey Rport 2017-18. United Arab Emirates, Ministry of Health & Prevention. https://www.mohap.gov.ae/Files/MOH_OpenData/1561/%D8%AA%D9%82%D8%B1%D9%8A%D8%B1%20%D8%A7%D9%84%D9%85%D8%B3%D8%AD%20%D8%A7%D9%84%D8%B5%D8%AD%D9%8A%20%D8%A7%D9%84%D9%88%D8%B7%D9%86%D9%8A%20%D8%A7%D9%84%D9%85%D8%AD%D8%AF%D8%AB.pdf (last accessed 14.10.19)
Notes:Emirati population only Men 38.5% living with overweight, 32.2% living with obesity Women 29.3% living with overweight, 41.8% living with obesity
Unless otherwise noted, overweight refers to a BMI between 25kg and 29.9kg/m², obesity refers to a BMI greater than 30kg/m².

Adults, 2012-2014

Survey type:Measured
Age:18-80
Sample size:2724
Area covered:Expatriots
References:Sulaiman, Elbadawi, Hussein, Abusnana, Madani, Mairghani, Alawadi, Sulaiman, Zimmet, Huse, Shaw and Peeters. 2017. Prevalence of overweight and obesity in United Arab Emirates Expatriates: the UAE National Diabetes and Lifestyle Study. Diabetol Metab Syndr. 9(88). DOI 10.1186/s13098-017-0287-0.
Notes:Expatriots only, they make up 80% of the population BMI calculated using ethnic specific cut-offs (Among Arabs and Europids - BMI 25 to 30kg/m2 indicated overweight and ≥ 30 kg/m2 indicated obesity. For asians those with BMI of 23 to < 27.5 kg/m2 were considered overweight while a BMI value of ≥ 27.5 kg/m2 indicated obesity)
Unless otherwise noted, overweight refers to a BMI between 25kg and 29.9kg/m², obesity refers to a BMI greater than 30kg/m².

Adults, 2000

Survey type:Measured
Age:20-79
Sample size:1286
Area covered:National
References:UAEHALS2000. Measuring the health of the Nation. United Areb Emirates and lifestyle survey 2000. Published by the Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences and the College of Business & Economics. UAE University.
Unless otherwise noted, overweight refers to a BMI between 25kg and 29.9kg/m², obesity refers to a BMI greater than 30kg/m².

Children, 2014-2015

Survey type:Measured
Age:11-14
Sample size:27113
Area covered:Regional
References:AlBlooshi, A., Shaban, S., AlTunaiji, M., Fares, N., AlShehhi, L., AlShehhi, H., AlMazrouei, A., and Souid, A.-K. (2016) Increasing obesity rates in school children in United Arab Emirates. Obesity Science & Practice, 2: 196–202. doi: 10.1002/osp4.37.
Notes:Region: Ras Al-Khaimah
Cutoffs:IOTF

Children, 2011

Survey type:Measured
Age:6-19
Sample size:1440
Area covered:Regional
References:A Al Junaibi, A Abdulle, S Sabri, M Hag-Ali and N Nagelkerke. The prevalence and potential determinants of obesity among school children and adolescents in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates. International Journal of Obesity, (14 August 2012), doi:10.1038/ijo.2012.131
Notes:85/95th Centile
Cutoffs:WHO

Children, 1998-1999

Survey type:Measured
Age:5-17
Sample size:381
Area covered:National
References:Malik M and Bakir A. (2006). Prevalence of overweight and obesity among Children in the United Arab Emirates. Obesity Reviews, 8: 15 - 20.
Notes:IOTF Cut off. Reference: Cole TJ, Bellizzi MC, Flegal KM, Dietz WH. Establishing a standard definition for child overweight and obesity worldwide: International survey. BMJ. 2000 May 6;320(7244):1240-3.
Cutoffs:IOTF

Overweight/obesity by education

Adults, 2012-2014

Survey type:Measured
Age:18+
Sample size:2724
Area covered:Expatriates (who make up approx 80% of UAE adult population)
References:Sulaiman, Elbadawi, Hussein, Abusnana, Madani, Mairghani, Alawadi, Sulaiman, Zimmet, Huse, Shaw and Peeters. 2017. Prevalence of overweight and obesity in United Arab Emirates Expatriates: the UAE National Diabetes and Lifestyle Study. Diabetol Metab Syndr. 9(88). DOI 10.1186/s13098-017-0287-0.
Notes:Expatriates only (though expatriates make up approx 80% of UAE adult population)
Unless otherwise noted, overweight refers to a BMI between 25kg and 29.9kg/m², obesity refers to a BMI greater than 30kg/m².

Overweight/obesity by age

Children, 2014-2015

Survey type:Measured
Sample size:27113
Area covered:Regional
References:AlBlooshi, A., Shaban, S., AlTunaiji, M., Fares, N., AlShehhi, L., AlShehhi, H., AlMazrouei, A., and Souid, A.-K. (2016) Increasing obesity rates in school children in United Arab Emirates. Obesity Science & Practice, 2: 196–202. doi: 10.1002/osp4.37.
Notes:International IOTF Cut Off
Cutoffs:IOTF

Overweight/obesity by socio-economic group

Adults, 2012-2014

Survey type:Measured
Age:18+
Sample size:2724
Area covered:Expatriates (who make up approx 80% of UAE adult population)
References:Sulaiman, Elbadawi, Hussein, Abusnana, Madani, Mairghani, Alawadi, Sulaiman, Zimmet, Huse, Shaw and Peeters. 2017. Prevalence of overweight and obesity in United Arab Emirates Expatriates: the UAE National Diabetes and Lifestyle Study. Diabetol Metab Syndr. 9(88). DOI 10.1186/s13098-017-0287-0.
Notes:Expatriates only (though expatriates make up approx 80% of UAE adult population)
Unless otherwise noted, overweight refers to a BMI between 25kg and 29.9kg/m², obesity refers to a BMI greater than 30kg/m².

Insufficient physical activity

Adults, 2016

References:Guthold R, Stevens GA, Riley LM, Bull FC. Worldwide trends in insufficient physical activity from 2001 to 2016: a pooled analysis of 358 population-based surveys with 1.9 million participants. Lancet 2018 http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/S2214-109X(18)30357-7

Men, 2016

References:Guthold R, Stevens GA, Riley LM, Bull FC. Worldwide trends in insufficient physical activity from 2001 to 2016: a pooled analysis of 358 population-based surveys with 1.9 million participants. Lancet 2018 http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/S2214-109X(18)30357-7

Women, 2016

References:Guthold R, Stevens GA, Riley LM, Bull FC. Worldwide trends in insufficient physical activity from 2001 to 2016: a pooled analysis of 358 population-based surveys with 1.9 million participants. Lancet 2018 http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/S2214-109X(18)30357-7

Children, 2010

Age:11-17
References:Global Health Observatory data repository, World Health Organisation, http://apps.who.int/gho/data/node.main.A893?lang=en
Notes:% of school going adolescents not meeting WHO recommendations on Physical Activity for Health, i.e. doing less than 60 minutes of moderate- to vigorous-intensity physical activity daily.
Definitions:% Adolescents insufficiently active (age standardised estimate)

Boys, 2010

Age:11-17
References:Global Health Observatory data repository, World Health Organisation, http://apps.who.int/gho/data/node.main.A893?lang=en
Notes:% of school going adolescents not meeting WHO recommendations on Physical Activity for Health, i.e. doing less than 60 minutes of moderate- to vigorous-intensity physical activity daily.
Definitions:% Adolescents insufficiently active (age standardised estimate)

Girls, 2010

Age:11-17
References:Global Health Observatory data repository, World Health Organisation, http://apps.who.int/gho/data/node.main.A893?lang=en
Notes:% of school going adolescents not meeting WHO recommendations on Physical Activity for Health, i.e. doing less than 60 minutes of moderate- to vigorous-intensity physical activity daily.
Definitions:% Adolescents insufficiently active (age standardised estimate)

Average daily frequency of carbonated soft drink consumption

Children, 2009-2015

Survey type:Measured
Age:12-17
References:Beal et al. (2019). Global Patterns of Adolescent Fruit, Vegetable, Carbonated Soft Drink, and Fast-food consumption: A meta-analysis of global school-based student health surveys. Food and Nutrition Bulletin. https://doi.org/10.1177/0379572119848287 sourced from Food Systems Dashboard http://www.foodsystemsdashboard.org/food-system

Estimated per-capita fruit intake

Adults, 2017

Survey type:Measured
Age:25+
References:Global Burden of Disease, the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation http://ghdx.healthdata.org/
Definitions:Estimated per-capita fruit intake (g/day)

Prevalence of less-than-daily fruit consumption

Children, 2008-2015

Survey type:Measured
Age:12-17
References:Global School-based Student Health Surveys. Beal et al (2019). Global Patterns of Adolescent Fruit, Vegetable, Carbonated Soft Drink, and Fast-food consumption: A meta-analysis of global school-based student health surveys. Food and Nutrition Bulletin. https://doi.org/10.1177/0379572119848287. Sourced from Food Systems Dashboard http://www.foodsystemsdashboard.org/food-system
Definitions:Prevalence of less-than-daily fruit consumption (% less-than-daily fruit consumption)

Prevalence of less-than-daily vegetable consumption

Children, 2008-2015

Survey type:Measured
Age:12-17
References:Beal et al. (2019). Global Patterns of Adolescent Fruit, Vegetable, Carbonated Soft Drink, and Fast-food consumption: A meta-analysis of global school-based student health surveys. Food and Nutrition Bulletin. https://doi.org/10.1177/0379572119848287 sourced from Food Systems Dashboard http://www.foodsystemsdashboard.org/food-system
Definitions:Prevalence of less-than-daily vegetable consumption (% less-than-daily vegetable consumption)

Average weekly frequency of fast food consumption

Children, 2009-2015

Age:12-17
References:Beal et al. (2019). Global Patterns of Adolescent Fruit, Vegetable, Carbonated Soft Drink, and Fast-food consumption: A meta-analysis of global school-based student health surveys. Food and Nutrition Bulletin. https://doi.org/10.1177/0379572119848287 sourced from Food Systems Dashboard http://www.foodsystemsdashboard.org/food-system

Estimated per-capita processed meat intake

Adults, 2017

Survey type:Measured
Age:25+
References:Global Burden of Disease, the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation http://ghdx.healthdata.org/
Definitions:Estimated per-capita processed meat intake (g per day)

Estimated per-capita whole grains intake

Adults, 2017

Survey type:Measured
Age:25+
References:Global Burden of Disease, the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation http://ghdx.healthdata.org/
Definitions:Estimated per-capita whole grains intake (g/day)

Mental health - depression disorders

Adults, 2015

References:Prevalence data from Global Burden of Disease study 2015 (http://ghdx.healthdata.org) published in: Depression and Other Common Mental Disorders: Global Health Estimates. Geneva:World Health Organization; 2017. Licence: CC BY-NC-SA 3.0 IGO.
Definitions:% of population with depression disorders

Mental health - anxiety disorders

Adults, 2015

References:Prevalence data from Global Burden of Disease study 2015 (http://ghdx.healthdata.org) published in: Depression and Other Common Mental Disorders: Global Health Estimates. Geneva:World Health Organization; 2017. Licence: CC BY-NC-SA 3.0 IGO.
Definitions:% of population with anxiety disorders

Oesophageal cancer

Men, 2018

Age:20+
References:Global Cancer Observatory, Cancer incidence rates http://gco.iarc.fr/ (last accessed 30th June 2020)
Definitions:Estimated age-standardized incidence rates (World) in 2018, oesophagus, adults ages 20+. ASR (World) per 100,000

Women, 2018

Age:20+
References:Global Cancer Observatory, Cancer incidence rates http://gco.iarc.fr/ (last accessed 30th June 2020)
Definitions:Estimated age-standardized incidence rates (World) in 2018, oesophagus, adults ages 20+. ASR (World) per 100,000

Breast cancer

Women, 2018

Age:20+
References:Global Cancer Observatory, Cancer incidence rates http://gco.iarc.fr/ (last accessed 30th June 2020)
Definitions:Estimated age-standardized incidence rates (World) in 2018, breast, females, ages 20+. ASR (World) per 100,000

Colorectal cancer

Men, 2018

Age:20+
References:Global Cancer Observatory, Cancer incidence rates http://gco.iarc.fr/ (last accessed 30th June 2020)
Definitions:Estimated age-standardized incidence rates (World) in 2018, colorectum, adults, ages 20+. ASR (World) per 100,000

Women, 2018

Age:20+
References:Global Cancer Observatory, Cancer incidence rates http://gco.iarc.fr/ (last accessed 30th June 2020)
Definitions:Estimated age-standardized incidence rates (World) in 2018, colorectum, adults, ages 20+. ASR (World) per 100,000

Pancreatic cancer

Men, 2018

Age:20+
References:Global Cancer Observatory, Cancer incidence rates http://gco.iarc.fr/ (last accessed 30th June 2020)
Definitions:Estimated age-standardized incidence rates (World) in 2018, pancreas, adults, ages 20+. ASR (World) per 100,000

Women, 2018

Age:20+
References:Global Cancer Observatory, Cancer incidence rates http://gco.iarc.fr/ (last accessed 30th June 2020)
Definitions:Estimated age-standardized incidence rates (World) in 2018, pancreas, adults, ages 20+. ASR (World) per 100,000

Gallbladder cancer

Men, 2018

Age:20+
References:Global Cancer Observatory, Cancer incidence rates http://gco.iarc.fr/ (last accessed 30th June 2020)
Definitions:Estimated age-standardized incidence rates (World) in 2018, gallbladder, adults, ages 20+. ASR (World) per 100,000

Women, 2018

Age:20+
References:Global Cancer Observatory, Cancer incidence rates http://gco.iarc.fr/ (last accessed 30th June 2020)
Definitions:Estimated age-standardized incidence rates (World) in 2018, gallbladder, adults, ages 20+. ASR (World) per 100,000

Kidney cancer

Men, 2018

Age:20+
References:Global Cancer Observatory, Cancer incidence rates http://gco.iarc.fr/ (last accessed 30th June 2020)
Definitions:Estimated age-standardized incidence rates (World) in 2018, kidney, adults, ages 20+. ASR (World) per 100,000

Women, 2018

Age:20+
References:Global Cancer Observatory, Cancer incidence rates http://gco.iarc.fr/ (last accessed 30th June 2020)
Definitions:Estimated age-standardized incidence rates (World) in 2018, kidney, adults, ages 20+. ASR (World) per 100,000

Cancer of the uterus

Women, 2018

Age:20+
References:Global Cancer Observatory, Cancer incidence rates http://gco.iarc.fr/ (last accessed 30th June 2020)
Definitions:Estimated age-standardized incidence rates (World) in 2018, cervix uteri, females, ages 20+. ASR (World) per 100,000

Raised blood pressure

Adults, 2015

References:Global Health Observatory data repository, World Health Organisation, http://apps.who.int/gho/data/node.main.A875?lang=en
Definitions:Age Standardised estimated % Raised blood pressure 2015 (SBP>=140 OR DBP>=90).

Men, 2015

References:Global Health Observatory data repository, World Health Organisation, http://apps.who.int/gho/data/node.main.A875?lang=en
Definitions:Age Standardised estimated % Raised blood pressure 2015 (SBP>=140 OR DBP>=90).

Women, 2015

References:Global Health Observatory data repository, World Health Organisation, http://apps.who.int/gho/data/node.main.A875?lang=en
Definitions:Age Standardised estimated % Raised blood pressure 2015 (SBP>=140 OR DBP>=90).

Raised cholesterol

Adults, 2008

References:Global Health Observatory data repository, World Health Organisation, http://apps.who.int/gho/data/node.main.A885
Definitions:% Raised total cholesterol (>= 5.0 mmol/L) (age-standardized estimate).

Men, 2008

References:Global Health Observatory data repository, World Health Organisation, http://apps.who.int/gho/data/node.main.A885
Definitions:% Raised total cholesterol (>= 5.0 mmol/L) (age-standardized estimate).

Women, 2008

References:Global Health Observatory data repository, World Health Organisation, http://apps.who.int/gho/data/node.main.A885
Definitions:% Raised total cholesterol (>= 5.0 mmol/L) (age-standardized estimate).

Raised fasting blood glucose

Men, 2014

References:Global Health Observatory data repository, World Health Organisation, http://apps.who.int/gho/data/node.main.A869?lang=en
Definitions:Age Standardised % raised fasting blood glucose (>= 7.0 mmol/L or on medication).

Women, 2014

References:Global Health Observatory data repository, World Health Organisation, http://apps.who.int/gho/data/node.main.A869?lang=en
Definitions:Age Standardised % raised fasting blood glucose (>= 7.0 mmol/L or on medication).

Diabetes prevalence

Adults, 2017

References:Reproduced with kind permission of IDF, International Diabetes Federation. IDF Diabetes Atlas, 8th edition. Brussels, Belgium: International Diabetes Federation, 2017. http://www.diabetesatlas.org
Definitions:Diabetes age-adjusted comparative prevalence (%).

Health systems

Economic classification: High Income

Health systems summary

Healthcare in the UAE is regulated at both the Emirate and Federal level. All seven emirates provide government-funded healthcare for its Emirati nationals, mostly through government funded insurance schemes. How this is delivered and who it is delivered by differs between the emirates. For example, in Dubai is it delivered by the Dubai Health Authority, in Abu Dhabi by the Health Authority Abu Dhabi and in other emirates by the Ministry of Health. Two government health insurance programmes ‘Thiqa’ and ‘Saada’ (in Abu Dhabi and Dubai respectively) provide healthcare coverage to Emirati Nationals not eligible for other government programmes.

Expatriates (who make up approximately 80-90% of the population) tend to use private health insurance for health care needs, and in some emirates — such as Dubai — expats are required to have private insurance by law. Often this insurance in provided by employers, as is some emirates employers are legally obliged to provide health insurance for their employees.

The Emirati health system has undergone significant reforms over recent years. Criticism of the health system includes high levels of fragmentation, but public satisfaction ratings remain high.

Indicators

Where is the country’s government in the journey towards defining ‘Obesity as a disease’?Defined as disease
Where is the country’s healthcare provider in the journey towards defining ‘Obesity as a disease’?Defined as disease
In practice, how is obesity treatment largely funded?Out of pocket
Is there specialist training available dedicated to the training of health professionals to prevent, diagnose, treat and manage obesity?Partial
Have any taxes or subsidies been put in place to protect/assist/inform the population around obesity?Yes
Are there adequate numbers of trained health professionals in specialties relevant to obesity in urban areas?Partial
Are there adequate numbers of trained health professionals in specialties relevant to obesity in rural areas?No
Are there any obesity-specific recommendations or guidelines published for adults?Yes
Are there any obesity-specific recommendations or guidelines published for children?Yes

Perceived barriers to treatment

  • High cost of out of pocket payments
  • Cultural norms/traditions
  • Food cost and availability

Summary of stakeholder feedback

Stakeholders detailed several efforts that have been made by the government to address obesity, including a lunchbox ban that prohibit certain unhealthy foods in all government schools and a tax on sugary drinks. There is reportedly an issue with fragmentation however, with many initiatives delivered at an Emirate level. An example of this is the Weqaya screening programme in Abu Dhabi. Stakeholders call for more work to be done at a national level to prevent obesity.

Under the national schemes, obesity treatment is covered for those with a BMI ≥ 30 kg/m². There are waiting lists for obesity treatment, but it has been suggested that these are not unreasonably long. It appears that treatment may be available under the government-funded national insurance schemes, but still much treatment is received at out of pocket expense.

Overall, there was felt to be a fair number of professionals to treat obesity (at least in urban areas) but there was concern about the lack of multidisciplinary teams and the lack of professionals working in prevention and health promotion. There is said to be too much emphasis on pharmacological and surgical treatment for adults, and not enough emphasis of lifestyle and behavioural changes.

‘Health Authority Abu Dhabi’ have clear guidelines on obesity treatment (last updated in 2018) but the extent to which these are followed in Abu Dhabi and the other emirates is unclear.

Based on interviews/survey returns from 8 stakeholders

Last updated: June 2020

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