Global Healthcare Issues: United Arab Emirates


Fraser Clarke

Across the world a vast range of medical issues affect different parts of the planet to differing degrees. Some are global, some are regional and some can be specific to a far smaller area.

As a medic looking at taking your career overseas, knowing as much as you can about a country’s health issues can be the key behind successfully securing a new job. On top of this it can also play a major role in helping you to decide where your future could lie.

Here, therefore, is the latest installment in our exclusive series of guides to the major health issues facing the countries we most commonly work with. In this article we will look at one of the world’s most popular locations for expats - The United Arab Emirates.


Across the Gulf region Diabetes is a major issue, with traditional diets and lifestyles leading to a population that eats plenty - whilst not exercising or restricting the amount of food that they consume. This has led to a diabetes epidemic throughout the Gulf, and it isn’t a bigger issue anywhere than in the Emirates.

Currently over 800,000 people in the UAE have diabetes, and this figure is expected to rise by around 80% throughout the Middle East & North Africa region - affecting an estimated 68m people by 2035, unless attitudes change soon.

Colorectal Cancer

Colorectal Cancer is one of the most common types of the condition amongst men in the UAE, with rates in Abu Dhabi being especially high. Globally it is men between the ages of 60 and 70 who find themselves at the highest risk of the condition, however in the UAE it has been discovered in many men under the age of 40.

Around 11% of Cancers in the UAE are Colorectal, with the conditions limited symptoms making it difficult to catch at an early stage. As a result health experts within the country have recommended that men, especially those at a higher risk of the condition due to family history, or factors such as smoking, regularly get screened to ensure it is caught before it can develop.


Hand in hand with diabetes is obesity. The UAE’s battle with the bulge is showing no signs of being won, as the country continues to expand both in numbers and size.

Recent estimates have shown that almost 70% of the Emirates’ population are at an unhealthy weight, with this being blamed on rapid development combined with a lack of education about a healthy lifestyle. Sporting facilities are becoming more widespread across the country, whilst attitudes are changing as people begin to learn about the major issues that result from being obese - however this will take time.

For now obesity can be linked to most of the major health problems in the United Arab Emirates - as well as more generally throughout the Gulf.

Heart Disease

The world’s biggest killer, heart disease, is as big an issue in the UAE as you would expect - with almost 30% of deaths in the country coming as a result of it. Coronary heart disease rates are the 24th highest on the planet, and with youth obesity rates in the country rising this ranking looks destined to rise further in the near future.

With the average heart disease patient being diagnosed a full 20 years earlier than the US average (at 45, rather than 65 years of age) a long battle with heart problems look to lie ahead.


Cancer of the Lymphatic system appears to be on the rise in the UAE, with the country now being home to the world’s ninth highest rates of the condition. Unfortunately the reasons for this remain unknown, with various experts pointing to a range of factors from exposure to radiation, to family genetics.

Lymphoma develops when lymphocytes (the body’s white blood cells that help to fight infection) become out of control. They can divide in an abnormal way, or do not die when they should. This can lead to a range of symptoms in a patient from rapid weight loss to fever like sweating.

Many people can be fully cured of the condition through a mix of chemotherapy, radiotherapy and bone marrow transplants - all of which point to a positive future where the concerningly high statistics in the UAE start to drop.

If a move to work in the UAE, with its tax free salaries, lower working hours and cutting edge facilities, is something which would appeal to you, then register on our website for job alerts - and start your journey to a more rewarding career today.

Start your journey today by registering on our website.