ABU DHABI // Thousands of people marked the 10th Abu Dhabi Walk on its return to Yas Marina Circuit by putting on their training shoes and stepping out to raise awareness of diabetes.
Last year, more than 21,000 took part. At Walk 2016, friends and family got together while mothers pushed prams to kickstart a healthier lifestyle and help reverse a long-term diabetes trend in the UAE.
This year is the one the World Health Organisation chose to beat diabetes, while the UAE set out to cut the incidence of diabetes from 19 per cent of the population to 16 per cent by 2021.
Imperial College London Diabetes Centre, with the support of Health Authority Abu Dhabi and Mubadala, Healthpoint and Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi joined forces to help get the message out to the public.
Dr Mugheer Al Khaili, chairman of Health Authority – Abu Dhabi, who joined thousands to pace the five kilometre main walk around the circuit, said: “I’m so happy to see a lot of people here to participate in the Walk.
“This is important to build a culture of exercise to reduce obesity, which is really alarming in this country – and in the GCC.”
Each year for World Diabetes Day, which takes place on November 14, Imperial College London Diabetes Centre, which deals with diabetes treatment, research, training and public health awareness, hosts the walk.
“We are trying to get people moving through exercise to improve their quality of life,” Dr Al Khaili said. “Invest in your health. Your health is your true wealth.”
It was a great day of out for Sundar Nurani’s family, a director at an audit firm who has lived in the UAE for 20 years.
He went to Yas with his wife Visalakshy, 45, and two children Venkatisan, 11, and Arunashree, 5.
“We’re really very happy to be here for the first time,” Ms Nurani said. “We came all the way from Sharjah just to be here. You see, I’ve battled diabetes, which was pregnancy induced, for 10 years. But because of my diet and exercise, by God’s grace, I’ve managed it well and I’ve not been required to take medicine. Walking daily keeps you fit.”
Steven Heath, 59, a general manager of a facilities management company, said of the walk: “It’s well organised and well supported,” he said. “I know that they have a big problem here in the Middle East with diabetes. We’re walking for them.”
Latest figures from the International Diabetes Federation suggest that 19.3 per cent of the UAE population is living with diabetes.
Four out of 10 adults with diabetes go undiagnosed. Mortality from diabetes is greater than HIV/Aids, tuberculosis, and malaria combined.
And with the number of diabetes sufferers in the UAE expected to double by 2040, action is needed if the country is to reverse the long-term trends it is seeing in the region and across the world.
“We’re coming here for the F1, and it’s good to be doing the circuit,” said Mr Heath, who was joined by his wife Debora for the walk.
“We’re walking the circuit for diabetes and giving back and we’ll be watching the Grand Prix two weeks from now.”
“It’s nice to see a big number of people participating in this event,” said Abdullah Al Refai, 36, a human resources manager at a construction company, who went with his wife Dima, 30, and 10-month-old daughter Elena.
“I often join events organised by the Imperial College London Diabetes Centre. It makes me feel happy that more people are promoting diabetes awareness and promoting a healthy lifestyle.
Roshan Dias, 35, a human resources officer at Bab Al Qasr Hotel, went with 20 other hotel employees, said: “We’re here to get active.”
The family-focused #WalkOn – The Walk 2016 event kicked off with competitions, entertainment, demonstrations and children’s activities before the walk itself.
The children had their faces painted and had fun with inflatable slides, bouncy castles, and trampolines. Scores of adult enjoyed a Zumba dance exercise session. Many took the chance to take selfies on the track or on stationary bikes provided by Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi’s community health initiative Cycle for Health UAE.