Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi’s Obesity Program sees an increase in young patients with BMI of 50

Dr. Rahat Ghazanfar, a staff physician in the General Medicine Department in the Medical Subspecialties Institute at Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhab

Easy access to high-calorie fast food and fewer physical activity hours are contributing factors to the disturbing rise of overweight and obesity levels among young people in the UAE, say experts at Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi, an integral part of Mubadala Health.

Patients with a Body Mass Index (BMI) above 25, and with risk factors for chronic diseases, such as diabetes, cardiovascular disease and cancer, are considered for the Obesity Program at Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi. Doctors saw an increase in the number of patients seeking medical and surgical treatments for weight loss last year and performed 450 bariatric surgeries in 2020. The program’s youngest patients have been between 14 and 18 years of age. 

“There’s plenty of evidence to suggest that the rates of overweight and obesity in the UAE remain stubbornly high. What is worrying is that these numbers seem to be increasing among young adults,” says Dr. Javed Raza, a staff physician and surgeon in the Digestive Disease Institute at Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi.

“While the rise in the number of patients is a sign of awareness that they need to get their health back on track, it is also an indication of the scale of the problem, which needs to be addressed through more community education,” he says.

According to the Ministry of Health and Prevention, the prevalence of obesity amongst children between the ages of five and 17 in the UAE was 14.45 percent in 2018.

“2020 added the challenge of homeschooling, fewer opportunities for outdoor activities and the convenience of food being delivered at the click of a button. The pandemic may not have caused the high obesity levels, but it did contribute to an unhealthy lifestyle in young people,” says Dr. Raza.

Dr. Rahat Ghazanfar, a staff physician in the General Medicine Department in the Medical Subspecialties Institute at Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi, says she typically recommends a lifestyle-altering approach for young patients before suggesting a medical or surgical route.

“There are ways to reverse and manage this chronic disease through a good diet and exercise plan. Even if a patient opts for a medical or surgical approach, a complete overhaul of their lifestyle is imperative to make any treatment effective and successful,” she says.

Patients of the Obesity Program are cared for by a multidisciplinary team of endocrinologists, metabolic surgeons, nurses, dieticians and patient educators. As part of the program, they are evaluated for comorbidities, hormonal problems associated with obesity, complications and nutritional deficiencies. They are then given a lifestyle, medical, surgical, or a combination plan based on their history, screening and preferences.

Dr. Ghazanfar explains that the care for patients seeking weight loss looks at all aspects of their wellbeing.

“The unique aspect of our program is that we look at all dimensions of health that can be affected by their weight. That includes pulmonology for sleep apnea, cardiology, psychiatry, advanced endoscopy and gastroenterology to deal with post bariatric problems.”

Dr Raza adds that they’ve enhanced convenience for patients from across the country during the pandemic with more access to ongoing support. At the same time, patients who have had bariatric surgery will be seen even without an appointment at the clinic if they have concerns or questions during the first month of their recovery.

“To make it convenient for our patients, especially those who live in the Northern Emirates, we do regular follow ups virtually through the hospital’s health app.  We also have a patient support group, which used to meet physically but is now virtual due to the pandemic, for patients who have benefited from the program and want to share their experience and encourage others to take action,” he said.  

About Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi:

Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi, an integral part of Mubadala Health, is a multispecialty hospital on Al Maryah Island in Abu Dhabi, UAE. Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi is a unique and unparalleled extension of US-based Cleveland Clinic’s model of care, specifically designed to address a range of complex and critical care requirements unique to the Abu Dhabi population.

Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi has the following Institutes: Heart & Vascular, Neurological, Digestive Disease, Eye, Respiratory, Critical Care, Surgical Subspecialties, Medical Subspecialties, Emergency Medicine, Anesthesiology, Pathology & Laboratory Medicine, Imaging, Quality & Patient Safety, and Clinical & Nursing. In all, more than 40 medical and surgical specialties are represented at Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi.

The facilities at Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi combine state-of-the-art amenities and world-class service standards. The hospital is a 394 (expandable to 490) bed facility, with five clinical floors, three diagnostic and treatment levels, and 13 floors of critical and acute inpatient units. It is a physician-led medical facility served by North American/European Board Certified (or equivalent) physicians. Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi provides patients in the region direct access to the world’s best healthcare providers and Cleveland Clinic’s unique model of care, reducing their need to travel abroad for treatment.

Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi – Al Ain began offering select medical services in December 2017. The facility is located on the Tawam Hospital Campus in Al Ain.

About Mubadala Health

Mubadala Health is the integrated healthcare network of Mubadala Investment Company. Established 2021, Mubadala Health operates, manages, and develops a portfolio of healthcare assets including: Abu Dhabi Telemedicine Centre (ADTC), Amana Healthcare, Capital Health Screening Centre (CHSC), Healthpoint, Imperial College London Diabetes Centre (ICLDC), and National Reference Laboratory (NRL). In addition, Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi is an integral part of Mubadala Health.

With a vision to transform the regional healthcare landscape, Mubadala Health sets a new benchmark for the UAE and regional healthcare industry through its state-of-the-art facilities and world-class caregivers who strive to put patients first across its continuum of care. Innovation, research, and education are the foundational pillars of Mubadala Health, supporting the further development of a sustainable healthcare sector in line with the vision of Abu Dhabi and the region.