Qatar is currently ranked sixth in obesity prevalence globally. Recognizing this issue, Sidra Medical and Research Center launched the Sidra Symposia Series with a session on Obesity in Pregnancy and Childhood.
The event was attended by leading experts in the field and over 100 peers from Hamad Medical Corporation (HMC), Weill Cornell Medical College in Qatar (WCMC-Q), Qatar Foundation (QF) and the Supreme Council of Health (SCH) at the Four Seasons Hotel in Doha yesterday.
Local and international experts in obesity took part in the session. The panel included: Dr. Debra Taubel, associate professor of obstetrics and gynecology at Weill Cornell Medical College – New York; Dr. Ahmed El Awwa, acting consultant for pediatric endocrinology and diabetes at HMC and instructor in clinical pediatrics at WCMC-Q; Dr. Ellen Wartella Al-Thani professor of communication, psychology, human development and social policy at Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois; and Dr. Joachim Dudenhausen, medical advisor and head of medical staff services at Sidra Medical and Research Center and a professor of obstetrics and gynecology at WCMC-Q.
The topics focused on obesity from pregnancy through childhood, including fetal programming, childhood obesity and the effect of food marketing on children. Thought leaders from the medical field and academia shared their latest research, tools, and knowledge of cutting-edge technology to combat this prevailing medical condition in the region, especially in Qatar.
Sidra’s inaugural session on obesity comes at a critical juncture for the local medical community. Dr. Dudenhausen said: “Fighting the prevalence of obesity in both Qatar and across the region, is a collaborative effort between the public and medical sectors. The Sidra Symposia Series aims to facilitate and contribute to the dialogue among medical professionals on issues affecting the population and the very latest research on these important topics.”
A 2009 Hamad Medical Corporation and The World Health Organization survey showed that 70 percent of Qatari children led unhealthy lifestyles, half of which suffered from malnutrition by being either over or under weight. Qatar has the highest rate of obese young boys regionally according to the International Association for the Study of Obesity.
Figures like this have led to a number of important initiatives in Qatar, including the National Sports Day, “Win Your Health,” the Supreme Council of Health’s campaign to combat local obesity, and the recent “Your Health First” campaign led by WCMC-Q and SCH.
Dr. Ellen Wartella commented: “Such public awareness campaigns in Qatar are having a positive impact on society and encourage youth to live a healthier lifestyle. These programs will challenge the food marketing influence on children today.”
Speaking at the event, Dr. Wartella shared her research on the impact of food marketing on children, warning that as prevalence of Western fast-food chains in Doha increases, public awareness campaigns and medical health professionals will need to work together to overcome child obesity. She stressed the importance of a healthier future for Qatari youth and adults.
HMC’s Acting Consultant for Pediatric Endocrinology and Diabetes, Dr. Ahmed El-Awwa, spoke about the opportunity Sidra’s presence in Qatar would offer to medical professionals working in Doha and the wider region. Of the world-class technology and information Sidra will provide, he said: “Sidra is expected to be a state-of-the-art hospital and a leading medical facility globally. The Sidra Symposia Series provides doctors like me the opportunity to work together with Sidra and be part of the larger medical community to overcome issues such as obesity.”
Dr. El-Awwa went on to discuss his experience in the field of childhood obesity. He discussed the magnitude of the problem globally and in Qatar, factors that contribute to obesity and its health consequences, including the risk of developing type 2 diabetes. Dr El- Awwa spoke about the management plan for people with obesity and highlighted that the corner stone in the management of childhood obesity is primary prevention, which should be a national priority. It is also imperative to prevent its persistence into adulthood.
Dr. Taubel discussed the effects of obesity on pregnancy and implications for the fetus. Obesity plays a significant role in pregnancy, at all stages. Many obese women face decreased fertility in the first instance and run a much higher risk of a first trimester loss. Dr. Taubel talked through the stages of pregnancy and the negative effects obese women are exposed to throughout, from the risks of fetal morbidity, with increased chance of stillbirth and heart defects, for example; through to planning for delivery, with a particularly increased risk during cesareans. One of the most alarming factors Dr. Taubel addressed in her presentation is the likelihood of an obese mother promoting an unhealthy lifestyle and resulting in an obese child, a vicious cycle that is hard to break.
Sidra’s unique contribution in combating the obesity epidemic locally lies in community care and the ability to bring together international experts to support its vision to provide for the health and wellbeing of women and children regionally and globally. The Sidra Symposia Series aims to bring together thought leaders to discuss and share ways of improving quality of life, such as overcoming obesity. The Series will take place regularly, addressing a number of topics and challenges that face the medical community.
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