Original Articles

Diabetes among Bedouins in the Negev: The Transition from a Rare to a Highly Prevalent Condition

Download PDF Print
Click on the icon on the upper right hand side for the article by Yunis Abou-Rbiah, MD and Shimon Weitzman, MD MPH, published in IMAJ.
IMAJ 2002; 4; September; 687-689
Abstract

Background: Previous studies have shown a low prevalence of diabetes and other cardiovascular risk factors among Bedouins living in the Negev Desert. New evidence suggests that diabetes is becoming highly prevalent.


Objectives: To estimate the prevalence of diabetes in the town of Rahat, describe the cardiovascular risk factor profile and therapeutic modalities for diabetes and related conditions in this population, and compare these findings with those in the Jewish population.


Methods: A complete record review of all known diabetic individuals aged 35 and older registered at the Rahat Clinic (Clalit Health Services) was carried out by a trained nurse and a research assistant. Information on demographic, anthropometric and clinical characteristics was abstracted. Data on prescribed hypoglycemic agents and other medications were also obtained.


Results: Of the 316 known diabetic patients in the clinic, complete data were available for 271 (85.8 %). The prevalence of known diabetes was 7.3% in males and 9.9% in females. Females had a significantly higher body mass index than males (30.9 vs. 29, P < 0.002), but lower levels of HBA1c and microalbuminuria. Oral hypoglycemic medications were taken by 69% of women and 76% of men, and insulin by 19% of women and 15% of men.


Conclusions: Compared with data on Jewish diabetic patients in the Negev and Israel, the overall prevalence of diabetes in the population of Rahat is higher, but their cardiovascular risk profile is better, except for obesity. These findings support the hypothesis that diabetes and obesity have become major public health problems among Bedouins.