Posted on December 14, 2014

The most advanced research on methods of diagnosing diabetes and improving outcomes for large populations was the subject of the latest Academic Health System (AHS) lecture and Multi-Departmental Grand Round held at Hamad Medical Corporation (HMC) by Professor Garry John, Consultant Clinical Biochemist and Head of Clinical Biochemisty and Immunology at the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital in the UK.

The sessions are part of an ongoing focus on integrating academic and health services to improve patient outcomes. “As of 2011, an estimated 366 million people worldwide have diabetes, and this number is expected to rise to 552 million people by 2030. A primary cause of this global epidemic is obesity, which is associated with type 2 diabetes. Fifty percent, or about 183 million people with diabetes worldwide, are undiagnosed,” said Prof. John, citing statistics from the International Diabetes Federation.

The sessions focused on hemoglobin A1c (HbA1c) testing as the best long-term marker of diabetes control. “The World Health Organization recommended the HbA1c for diagnosing diabetes back in 2011 because HbA1c is a simple, straightforward test. With just one random blood sample, the HbA1c test measures the patient’s glucose values over a time period of one to three months,” said Prof. John.

Prof. John explained that this better equips healthcare practitioners to manage a patient’s diabetes and prevent associated complications, such as cardiovascular disease, which is the leading cause of premature death among people with diabetes. “Every one percent improvement in HbA1c reduces the risk of diabetes-related death, microvascular complications (caused by damage to small blood vessels), and myocardial infarction (commonly known as heart attack),” he said.

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Diabetes is one of the priority areas in Qatar’s National Health Strategy due to the increasing prevalence of the disease in the country, with obesity as a major factor. According to Dr. Mahmoud Zirie, Senior Consultant and Head of HMC’s Endocrinology and Diabetes Division, diabetes affects between 16 to 17 percent of Qatari adults 20-65 years old. Qatar also has one of the highest incidences of type 1 diabetes in children at 25-30 per 100,000.

Prof. John’s wealth of experience in the field of diabetes has included serving in various high-ranking positions, such as Chairman of the International Federation for Clinical Chemistry and Laboratory Medicine (IFCC) Working Group on HbA1c Standardization, and his current role as Chairman of the IFCC Task Force on HbA1c Standardization Implementation. He has worked closely with the European Association for the Study of Diabetes, the International Diabetes Federation and the World Health Organization.

Qatar’s Academic Health System is a dynamic nationwide network integrating research, education and clinical care to focus on improving patient care and delivering innovative healthcare solutions. The eight partners working collaboratively in the AHS include HMC, Sidra Medical and Research Center, Weill Cornell Medical College in Qatar, Qatar Biomedical Research Institute, College of the North Atlantic-Qatar, the Primary Health Care Corporation, Qatar University and University of Calgary-Qatar.