Jeddah, (Arab News): Obesity is fast turning out to be a major cause of concern for the Kingdom with seven out of 10 Saudis suffering from obesity, and 37 percent of Saudi women facing problems related to overweight.
And to top it all, their problems are compounded because health insurance does not cover obesity surgery.
A recent study revealed that a whopping SR500 million per year was spent by people suffering from obesity in the Kingdom on treatment, especially diabetes which is prevalent among a large section of Saudis, including women.
The disease had spread at an alarming rate of 30 percent in the past 10 years.
These startling figures were revealed at an international obesity conference in Alkhobar. More than 450 participants from various health sectors are participating in the 3rd International Obesity Conference, with 12 speakers from Europe and America, five lecturers from the Gulf and 18 speakers from the Kingdom. Dr. Ayed Al-Qahtani, consultant obesity surgeon, said the Ministry of Health was currently developing a national strategy to combat obesity, and was in the process of setting up a national center for obesity surgery at the King Fahd Medical City, with five similar centers across the Kingdom in the pipeline.
He also raised the issue of obesity surgery not being covered under health insurance while it is classified as a disease, and is covered under insurance all over the world.
The first day of the conference focused on the importance of having an exclusive section in all hospitals to deal with professional ethics related to obesity surgery, and to ensure that the patient understands his rights and the results of the surgery.
The conference recommended training of doctors since obesity is an independent area differing from general surgery.
Dr. Ahmad Al-Arfaj, regional executive director of Health Affairs in the Ministry of National Guard, said the conference also reviewed the latest methods for prevention and treatment of complications arising out of obesity surgery.
Dr. Abdul Majeed Al-Abdulkarim, vice president, postgraduate studies and academic affairs at King Saud University for Health Sciences, said obesity is one of the most widespread contemporary diseases in most societies.
Quoting from World Health Organization (WHO) statistics, he said there are about 1.6 billion adults world-wide who are obese.
Nearly 60 percent of the population aged over 16 in the Kingdom was overweight, placing the country in the 29th position among 194 countries, he said.
Dima, a firm which handles events management, is launching a three-day exhibition-cum-forum titled “Your health is your responsibility” from April 26 in coordination with the King Khaled University and the Saudi Commission for Health Specialties. Its focus would be on obesity and related issues.