Monday, July 8, 2013

International climate expert outlines challenges ahead for a more sustainable future

Diseases associated with lifestyle practices bedevil our population and this is true both in the United States and around the world with 42 per cent of Americans expected to be obese by 2030 and one third of all American adults face problems with diabetes by 2050, Dr. David Katz told a public health symposium at Weill Cornell Medical College in Qatar last night. [March 12]

“Obesity threatens the US future as much as it threatens the future of Qatar,” Dr. Katz said in his keynote address.  “These problems are global. Obesity is a major problem that leads to many illnesses and diseases.”

But there remains hope for change with a return to basic lifestyle changes, he said, stressing that personal motivation remains a crucial element in changing dietary habits, raising activity levels and adopting healthier options to ward off the possibility of illnesses such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes, obesity and cancer which have the highest mortality rates across the globe.

Dr. Katz was addressing a continuing medical education Global and Public Health symposium that focused on emerging trends in health care and lifestyle diseases with a special focus on Qatar. Dr. Katz is known internationally for his expertise in nutrition, weight management and chronic disease prevention. He is also the director of Yale University’s Prevention Research Center.

He blames lack of physical activity, tobacco, poor diet as the main causes of early death by illness and it is something that we can all control in our daily lives.

The symposium, co-sponsored by the Supreme Council of Health and WCMC-Q, also saw the launch of the Journal of Local and Global Health Perspectives. It is an international peer reviewed, open access journal from WCMC-Q Associate Dean for Global and Public Health and Professor of Public Health Dr. Ravi Mamtani and Professor Albert Lowenfels from New York Medical College are the joint editors-in-chief.

Dr. Faleh Mohamed Hussain Ali, Assistant Secretary General for Policy Affairs at Qatar Supreme Council of Health (SCH), welcomed the new publication as a much needed and timely arrival for researchers, physicians and medical students.

“We are missing such journals and it is a welcome addition to the medical publications landscape and that it will also be a great contribution towards the health of our nation as a whole,” Dr. Faleh said. “This is something that shows perspective, both in local and international dimensions,” he said. “Having something that looks at the scientific issues from a local and international perspective is a great benefit to us all.”

WCMC-Q Dean, Dr. Javaid Sheikh welcomed the panel of speakers, which also included Professor Stephanie Abbuhl, a leading women’s advocacy speaker from Pennsylvania University where she is the executive director of Focus on Health and Leadership for Women. Professor Abbuhl provided a perspective on advancing women in medicine and science, Dr. Mamtani who highlighted chronic disease risk factors and recent findings in Qatar and Professor Lowenfels who focused on health, disease and the intestinal microbiome.

Dr. Mamtani said lifestyle diseases are on the rise in Qatar as recent research shows. Obesity is an important risk factor and the number of people living in Qatar who are overweight is on the rise. There are some worrisome times ahead for the number of current lifestyle diseases future projections. An example of this is the increasing prevalence of cardiovascular diseases and diabetes.

“Globally 63 per cent of people die from non-communicable diseases. In these diseases the top four diseases are cardiovascular diseases, cancer, respiratory diseases and diabetes and they constitute about 80 per cent of mortalities,” Dr. Mamtani said

Prevalence of these diseases and risk factors is also widely prevalent in Qatar.  About 70m per cent of people in Qatar are overweight and 41 per cent are obese in recent data provided by the Supreme Council of Health.

 “These diseases, as science has shown, kill prematurely, they compromise quality of life and we also know they are influenced by behavior. Even though genetics is an important component, these issues can be prevented or their onset delayed,” Dr. Mamtani said.

“Often we think that we need to do a lot to prevent these illnesses. That is not the case. Often times simply making some marginal changes in case of obesity for example as little as eight to 10 pounds reduction will contribute to improving the health. Equally important, that even with these simple self-care approaches such as a healthy diet, regular physical activity and maintaining a normal body weight are immensely helpful in reducing the incidents of diseases such as diabetes. But knowing all this, the evidence that supposes this is not being implemented,” he said.

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