HEAD IN THE GAME

Abu Dhabi 2016 | HEALTH | INTERVIEW

TBY talks to Dr. Safdar Naqvi, Executive & Medical Director, Consultant Physician & Endocrinologist at Imperial College London Diabetes Centre (ICLDC), on how awareness of lifestyle and dietary habits is key to addressing healthcare challenges in the region.

Dr. Safdar Naqvi
BIOGRAPHY
Dr. Saf Naqvi is a certified general and metabolic physician, specializing in the management of hormone disorders. He conducts complex hormone investigations while having special interest in thyroid disorders and insulin treatment. Naqvi has a wealth of experience gathered from a career in the UK. Having led diabetes care in hospitals and the community, he has helped to develop high standards in the companies he works with. He was appointed deputy chairman of the newly created Medical Board at ICLDC in 2013, and became medical director of ICLDC in 2015.

What is the current national mentality toward diabetes and what efforts do you have in terms of changing people's attitudes to diabetes and its causes?

Diabetes is now front and center of people's minds, an important development as knowing there is a problem is the first step to addressing it. At Imperial College London Diabetes Centre, our approach requires us to focus on education, prevention, and management if we are to reverse the long-term trends we are seeing in the region and across the world. We believe that prevention is better than cure. Lifestyle and dietary habits are key to preventing diabetes, and in early 2007, just months after Imperial College London Diabetes Centre opened, we launched the center's award-winning public health awareness campaign, “Diabetes.Knowledge.Action" to address this crucial national issue for the country. The message is simple: a balanced diet, maintaining a normal body weight, and regular, brisk exercise comprise a healthy lifestyle that can help prevent, manage, and even reverse diabetes. The campaign has attracted attention and helped create greater awareness through a variety of means from healthy cooking classes to corporate football tournaments, from community walks to school visits and from diet classes to social media activations. It has become the UAE's longest-running public health campaign, and together with the center's services, over a million people have been directly reached by Imperial College London Diabetes Center.

How does ICLDC coordinate and work with other healthcare institutions to deliver primary services?

Our on-going vision is to create a Centre of Excellence for diabetes with a multi-disciplinary approach covering all aspects of diabetes and its complications, not just for Abu Dhabi, but for the UAE and the region. It is important, with a population with nearly one in five people with diabetes, to collaborate with institutions that address the complications and also facilitate admissions where necessary and look after the emergencies. The center liaises closely with the various UAE health bodies, government and private hospitals and primary care services within the UAE. In particular, we have well established relationships with our fellow Mubadala entities, Healthpoint and Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi. The purpose of these arrangements is to provide specific, quality, focused, multi-disciplinary care as is needed by our patients. For example, we send patients for further cardiology treatment at Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi, while some cases of gastroenterology are referred to Healthpoint.

How is technology utilized to deal with diabetes in the most effective way?

When we opened the center, we wanted a one-stop model of care, with everything done in the same visit, from drawing blood to receiving results and seeing the physician, ensuring that both the patient and the treating physician have a complete picture of the condition and any related conditions and complications. This was only possible using customized, innovative software that could link up with all aspects of care, including billing. It also means that a patient journey, from registration through to prescription, can be made within an hour while the patient is still in the center. Technology is central to the future of diabetes and diabetes care. Having said that, face-to-face contact is also important for that ongoing engagement, as patients with diabetes tend to also have other issues that cannot be addressed digitally. We build strong, personal relationships with each our patients, and often their families, as together we embrace the individual diabetes management care program designed for each patient.

Are you planning to expand in the UAE or regionally?

The vision is that we need to be a leading organization for the delivery and provision of diabetes care for the region and internationally. We are increasing our capacity and improving efficiencies at our two centers, introducing new technologies, and working on developing sub-specialties in diabetes and expanding endocrinology service, which deals with hormonal disorders.