Qatar is currently ranked sixth in obesity prevalence globally. Recognizing this issue, Sidra Medical and Research Center launched the Sidra Symposia Series with a session on Obesity in Pregnancy and Childhood. The July 2012 event was attended by leading experts in the field and over 100 peers from Hamad Medical Corporation (HMC), Weill Cornell Medical College in Qatar (WCMC-Q), Qatar Foundation (QF) and the Supreme Council of Health (SCH) at the Four Seasons Hotel in Doha.
Local and international experts in obesity took part in the session. The panel included: Dr Debra Taubel, associate professor of obstetrics and gynecology at Weill Cornell Medical College - New York; Dr Ahmed El Awwa, acting consultant for pediatric endocrinology and diabetes at HMC and instructor in clinical pediatrics at WCMC-Q; Dr Ellen Wartella, Al-Thani professor of communication, psychology, human development and social policy at Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois; and Dr Joachim Dudenhausen, medical advisor and head of medical staff services at Sidra Medical and Research Center and a professor of obstetrics and gynecology at WCMC-Q.
The topics focused on obesity from pregnancy through childhood, including fetal programming, childhood obesity and the effect of food marketing on children. Thought leaders from the medical field and academia shared their latest research, tools, and knowledge of cutting-edge technology to combat this prevailing medical condition in the region, especially in Qatar.
A 2009 Hamad Medical Corporation and The World Health Organization survey showed that 70 percent of Qatari children led unhealthy lifestyles, half of which suffered from malnutrition by being either over or under weight. Qatar has the highest rate of obese young boys regionally according to the International Association for the Study of Obesity.
Figures like this have led to a number of important initiatives in Qatar, including the National Sports Day, ‘Win Your Health,’ the Supreme Council of Health’s campaign to combat local obesity, and the recent ‘Your Health First’ campaign led by WCMC-Q and SCH.
Speaking at the event, Dr Wartella shared her research on the impact of food marketing on children, warning that as prevalence of Western fast-food chains in Doha increases, public awareness campaigns and medical health professionals will need to work together to overcome child obesity. She stressed the importance of a healthier future for Qatari youth and adults.
Dr Taubel discussed the effects of obesity on pregnancy and implications for the fetus. Obesity plays a significant role in pregnancy, at all stages. Many obese women face decreased fertility in the first instance and run a much higher risk of a first trimester loss.
Dr Taubel talked through the stages of pregnancy and the negative effects obese women are exposed to throughout, from the risks of fetal morbidity, with increased chance of stillbirth and heart defects, for example; through to planning for delivery, with a particularly increased risk during cesareans.
One of the most alarming factors Dr Taubel addressed in her presentation is the likelihood of an obese mother promoting an unhealthy lifestyle and resulting in an obese child, a vicious cycle that is hard to break.