Despite significant progress, obesity management remains a challenge in the UAE | World Obesity Federation

Despite significant progress, obesity management remains a challenge in the UAE

NewsDespite significant progress, obesity management remains a challenge in the UAE

March 2024

For World Obesity Day 2024, our new report highlights how challenging obesity management still is in the UAE, not only in terms of its toll on the health of affected children and adults but also its impact on the nation’s economy, now and in the coming years.

The UAE implemented standards of care for obesity management in 2008 and continues to enjoy the role of a global leader in many health initiatives, like polio eradication and cervical cancer prevention strategies, but it is still grappling with a growing obesity crisis that, without significantly scaled-up efforts, will become ever more serious in the coming years.

The launch of the UAE national briefing on obesity coincides with the launch of the World Obesity Atlas which we issue every year. The 2024 Atlas underscores the adverse consequences of economic development on obesity trends.

UAE Briefing

Recent data reveals that increasing obesity rates are diverting nearly $12 billion annually from the UAE’s economy. In response, there are calls for ramped-up commitments and serious action to avert further repercussions.

The cost of business as usual with obesity, with fragmented and siloed efforts here as in most countries, means the UAE is expected to see a continued rise in the numbers of people living with obesity and increases in the economic impact of disability and death associated with the disease. The UAE has made a start and armed with this new data, it is time to take decisive steps on turning the tide on the obesity epidemic. This data is an excellent opportunity for policymakers to implement new strategies aimed at reducing obesity and its associated economic burdens”, said Johanna Ralston, CEO at the World Obesity Federation.

UAE Briefing

According to projections, the economic impact of obesity in the UAE is on track to rise to almost 5% of the GDP by 2035, underlining the urgent need for national and local public health initiatives to alter the current trajectory.

Despite laudable efforts in the UAE to address overweight and obesity in recent years, from making women’s fitness options accessible to all to the implementation of an excise tax on sugar-sweetened beverages and a focus on food standards in schools, experts suggest that there is room for more to be done.

Some countries in the MENA region have made significant strides to treat and manage obesity. The UAE, for example, has put in place standards of care for obesity management since 2008. However, as a region with some of the highest rates of obesity, we have initiated a working group - soon to become a registered society - with the support of the World Obesity Federation to produce unified guidelines, supporting education and raising awareness of obesity and how best to tackle it,” said Dr. Sara Suliman. “The main barriers to obesity management include recognition of obesity as a disease, education of healthcare professionals as well as the affected individuals and their families, clear management guidelines and support from all sectors involved in the prevention and management of obesity.

As the UAE strives to maintain its position as a global leader and innovator in healthcare, addressing the obesity epidemic is paramount for individuals, the health system and the economy. By implementing proactive measures today, the nation can safeguard the health and well-being of its citizens while ensuring sustainable economic growth for the future.

Download the UAE national briefing here

2024 United Arab Emirates - Obesity in numbers

A UAE national briefing, released by the World Obesity Federation

Download (346.7 KB)

World Obesity Atlas 2024

You can view and download our World Obesity Atlas 2024 on our Global Obesity Observatory (GOO) here. You can also find our previous years' Atlases on the Publications page of our GOO.

World Obesity Atlas 2024