(MENAFN - Jordan Times) Jordan is on the brink of an economic and health crisis due to the rise in chronic disease rates in the country, a health expert said on Tuesday.
Kamel Ajlouni, director of the National Centre for Diabetes, Endocrinology and Genetics (NCDEG), warned that unless preventive measures are taken to curb the rise, the country's disease rates and healthcare costs will rise to crisis levels.
By 2050, 3.4 million people in Jordan are expected to have diabetes mellitus, 3.7 million with hypertension, and 2.93 million with high cholesterol, Ajlouni said, calling these figures "alarming".
The direct and indirect costs of treating the four major chronic diseases - diabetes, hypertension, obesity and dyslipidemia (high cholesterol) - stood at JD1.3 billion in the Kingdom in 2004, according to figures he presented.
Ajlouni also noted that diabetes is responsible for 70 per cent of kidney failure cases in the Kingdom and is the leading cause of blindness, while Jordan has one of the top 10 most overweight populations in the world.
According to the latest study conducted two years ago, 86 per cent of Jordanian women and 84 of Jordanian men above 25 years old are obese or overweight.
The same study, he pointed out, found that 63.2 per cent of women and 65.5 of men above 25 years old have vitamin B12 deficiencies, while the current prevalence of diabetes is 35 per cent among women over 25 and 36 per cent among men.
"Sixty per cent of Jordanian women who have diabetes suffer from depression as well," Ajlouni noted at a press gathering, adding that 30 per cent of these depression cases are due to mistreatment by their spouses.
The good news, according to the NCDEG director, is that 80 per cent of diabetes and heart disease cases are preventable by following a healthy lifestyle that includes exercise and a healthy diet.
Ajlouni also called on partners in the National Strategy for Prevention of Non-Communicable Diseases, including the ministries of health, education and awqaf and Islamic affairs, to cooperate in its implementation.
He noted that the Awqaf Ministry is helping spread awareness about the prevention of chronic diseases through its preachers in mosques, while a letter was sent to churches to help spread the word among Jordanian Christians as well.
Meanwhile, Ajlouni criticised the unavailability of pavements in most of the country's cities, which discourages people from walking.
"If there are sidewalks, they are used for other purposes, such as parking cars or planting trees, which prevent the public from using them for their actual purpose: walking".
Ajlouni also called on the media to raise awareness about chronic diseases and their impact on people and the country.