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‘90% of diabetic Palestinian refugees are obese’

By Khetam Malkawi - Feb 09,2014 - Last updated at Feb 09,2014

AMMAN — A study conducted among Palestinian refugees who have diabetes showed that approximately 90 per cent of them are obese.

The study, conducted by UNRWA in Jordan, Lebanon, the Gaza Strip and the West Bank also revealed that 20 per cent of diabetic Palestinian refugees are smokers, which is considered a “dangerously high” rate, according to Margot Ellis, UNRWA deputy commissioner general in the Near East.

The study covered 1,600 patients; 4.3 per cent of the total were affected by type I diabetes and 95.7 per cent by type II diabetes. A considerably high proportion (1,102 or 68.9 per cent) has comorbidity with hypertension.

The majority (1,109 or 69.3 per cent) were females, according to the study.

The high proportion of female patients is a reflection of the general patient population at UNRWA health centres, the study said.

Of the total 1,600, 3.9 per cent, received lifestyle support only, 95.6 per cent received diabetes medicines and 0.5 per cent received treatment from non-UNRWA health facilities.

Late complications were found among 204 patients (12.8 per cent).

In 2011, over 114,000 diabetic Palestinian refugees were registered with UNRWA health centres in Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, the Gaza Strip and the West Bank, and the numbers are “steadily increasing by 3 to 5 per cent every year”, according to Ellis.

UNRWA recently started implementing healthcare reform by introducing the family health team approach, which is a family and person-centred approach “to provide comprehensive primary healthcare at UNRWA health centres”, Ellis said in a statement sent to The Jordan Times, adding that this approach is essential for chronic, lifestyle-related conditions like diabetes.

“Most importantly, the approach improves efficiency of healthcare while focusing on the specific needs of refugee patients,” she explained.

The study conducted in four of the UNRWA areas on diabetes patients will address different challenges and assess the quality of diabetes care in the agency, according to Ellis, who noted that this study is the first step of a three-year project supported by the World Diabetes Foundation.

“The findings of the diabetes clinical audit will be used to define a strategy to improve technical and managerial capacity within UNRWA’s health services and to increase diabetes awareness amongst Palestinian refugees. Our ultimate aim is to save more lives and to protect all diabetic refugees from complications that may lead to disability,” she noted.

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