THE BEST TIME TO PLANT A TREE

Kuwait 2018 | HEALTH & EDUCATION | INTERVIEW

TBY talks to Dr. Qais Saleh Al-Duwairi, Director General of Dasman Diabetes Institute (DDI), on the best preventative measures, how to best educate people, and the importance of research.

Dr. Qais Saleh Al-Duwairi
BIOGRAPHY
The former Assistant Undersecretary of Technical Affairs at the Ministry of Health, Dr. Qais Saleh Al-Duwairi joined DDI in February 2016. He attained a bachelor’s of medicine and surgery from Cairo University and a master’s of hospital management from Leeds University. His multifaceted approach to diabetes management allows him to lead DDI’s multi-disciplinary team of researchers and medical professionals, combining their knowledge and experience to provide quality diabetes care. Through strategic partnerships, he aims to foster the knowledge of Kuwait’s youth on the importance of diabetes prevention, early detection, and treatment to further reduce its onset.

What is your organization's role in Kuwait?

The main issue of this arm of DDI is to tackle the prevalence of diabetes in the region by establishing a scientific program of training and teaching through which we can lower its incidence and minimize the rate of complications for patients. We have to do a great deal of public awareness programs because outreach is important. These factors include exercise and the quality of diets. It is important to encourage a healthier type of diet and suitable portions. We also have to tackle the rate of obesity; Kuwait is one of the top countries in the world in terms of obesity rates, a leading reason for our high incidences of diabetes. More than 76% of the population is overweight, while 48% is obese. These figures include Kuwaitis and expats. This is because of the lifestyle, which significantly affects health. These figures are truly alarming. Therefore, a great deal of effort should be made, and not only from the health sector. Many sectors in the government could chair a regular program to address many of these risk factors. The results are backed by medicine and research from many countries in the surrounding region. We have excellent medical services and have the platinum accreditation of the ACI.

Do you have ways to measure the impact of education and outreach programs?

This is the directive of the Ministry of Health. We have limited capabilities, and our resources are for standard programs that target a certain age and deliver many activities. We have a mobile clinic fully equipped for screening and check-ups. We also have a fully qualified staff, from dietitians to health educators, nurses, and physicians. The Ministry of Education has growth and sustainability programs. We focus more on health promotions for diabetes. There is a great deal of information and education in this regard. We have a magazine that also raises awareness amongst students, in addition to other educational programs. On top of this, we engage with the partners and even teachers as well. Most people are aware of diabetes; however, they need more specific information. Everyone knows diabetes is caused by high blood sugar, but they need to understand how to prevent it by living a healthy life, knowing what to avoid, and how much exercise they should do. These are issues that need more visibility. We should give them a straight and clear message.

How do you assess the benefits of your partnerships?

We classify them according to need. Sometimes we focus on education and how to build capacities for new research and universities. Other times we do population-based research and focus more on programs that train scientists, though we also have to focus on training our health professionals more toward teaching, managing, and educating. We have many partnerships, including Kuwait University and the Kuwait Faculty of Public Health, and have an open platform to access their resources. Most of our resources go toward research.

How does DDI fit into international research on diabetes?

Because DDI is a new center, we are building up our facilities; our research activities will take time. It is also important to recruit many high-caliber scientists as well as develop our staff. We currently have a new research strategy with our new chief scientific officer. There are many elements, the most important of which are partnerships and attracting more high achievers. It is also important to improve our infrastructure. We have the center itself, as well as contact with universities such as Harvard and other medical schools. We have the resources and collaboration to turn the center into a training hub if we can attract more students and candidates from the GCC through our internal collaborations and research activities. We recently established a scientific advisory board comprising high-caliber scientists that assist us with our research. The future is bright.