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Emirati Doctor Urges Policymakers to Address Non-Alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease

Non-alcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH), a liver disease closely associated with type 2 diabetes and obesity, is on the rise in the region and needs to be addressed, according to an expert at Imperial College of London Diabetes Centre (ICLDC), part of Mubadala’s network of healthcare providers.


Emirati internal medicine consultant Dr Farhana Bin Lootah served on the steering committee collaborating on preparing a document proposing key recommendations for global policymakers that was released on 12 June, to mark International NASH Day.


NASH is a form of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) in which the liver is not just fatty, but also inflamed, which can lead to fibrosis – or scarring – and can result in cirrhosis or liver cancer. With the UAE’s high rates of obesity and type 2 diabetes, its increasing prevalence, especially among young people, is significant.


Dr Farhana says: “We know the prevalence of NASH is rising parallel to obesity and type 2 diabetes. This is a real problem in areas where these conditions are prevalent, such as the Middle East.” 


“We need to integrate NASH into existing policies and initiatives aimed at preventing and reducing obesity, especially among children and young people.”


Dr Farhana points to recent research conducted into the prevalence of NAFLD in the UAE and Saudi Arabia. This study estimated that by 2030, there would be around 372,000 NAFLD cases in the UAE, and cases of compensated cirrhosis and advanced liver disease were projected to at least double in the same period.


The policy document released on The Health Policy Partnership’s (HPP) website, proposes key recommendations to policymakers to address the rise of NAFLD and NASH, and includes these points:


•    Both the public and medical practitioners working outside the field of hepatology need to be educated about liver health, NASH and NAFLD. 


•    Liver conditions should be included in public health policies and initiatives aimed at preventing or reducing obesity, especially among children and young people. 


•    Data collection about the disease should be improved and the results must be incorporated into workforce planning, and into public health systems in a way that will ensure the disease is effectively managed through all of its stages.


•    Continuing medical education about the impact of obesity and type 2 diabetes the liver should be provided to primary and secondary care providers; screening of high risk-individuals must be encouraged; and the development of effective diagnostic tools and treatment options needs to be promoted.


•    The establishment of multidisciplinary teams for metabolic syndrome and NAFLD/NASH management should be encouraged and the development of cross-specialty guidelines to help implement multidisciplinary care in practice should be promoted.


The full report and its proposed recommendations can be accessed on HPP’s website: http://bit.ly/NASH-report