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MUSCAT: Landmark Group will strive to ensure that necessary information about diabetes is communicated to the right audience through different events held round the year, says Clive Freeman, general manager, Landmark Group as the group gets ready for the awareness walkathon to be held on November 25 at Centrepoint in Ruwi. The region’s leading retail and hospitality conglomerate is holding the awareness campaign under the patronage of the Ministry of Health and Oman Diabetes Association. 

What has been the response to the Beat Diabetes’ campaign Landmark’s on-going corporate social responsibility (CSR) health initiative and what have you achieved so far? 

The Landmark Group’s Beat Diabetes campaign has received tremendous response since its launch three years ago. We started with our first walk in UAE in 2009; this was then extended to Bahrain, Oman, Kuwait, Qatar and India in the following year. 

In 2010, the Landmark Group’s walkathon attracted over 25,000 while over 30,000 were administered free blood glucose tests across six countries. Recent figures from International Diabetes Federation report (IDF 5th edition report) indicate that the number of people living with diabetes around the world is expected to rise from 366 million in 2011 to 552 million by 2030, unless swift action is undertaken. 

The Landmark Group has operations in the Middle East and India which has some of the highest figures of diabetes prevalence. We aim to increase our outreach in the years to come across all countries we operate in. 

Half the people who suffer from type 2 diabetes don’t even know they have it, we want to spread awareness about the condition and encourage people to adopt a more healthy and balanced lifestyle.

How much can an annual walkathon and blood test help in creating awareness? Do you plan to start something all year round? 
November is World Diabetes Month with November 14 being World Diabetes Day; hence we conduct extensive blood glucose tests and our walkathons during this month. 

The aim is to raise consciousness about the condition and educate people on how the condition can be managed by making lifestyle changes. This though is one step of our Beat Diabetes campaign. 

The awareness drive of the Group, however, is a year round activity. In the UAE, we teamed up with the Dubai Schools Football league, to reach out to schools and conduct health talks along with our medical partners. We also conducted an outreach during Ramadan, with our ‘Eat Healthy’ campaign. Closer to home in Oman we have initiated blood test in labour camps. Later in coming months we plan to take this test camp to Sohar and Salalah. We have also planned several school outreach initiatives across the year in 2011 – 12. 

You were talking about a mobile testing unit? Is it likely to happen soon? 

The Landmark Group is keen to start the mobile testing unit; it will definitely assist in encouraging more people to take the blood glucose test. We are in close talks with the MOH to take this forward as this will greatly help in spreading awareness on diabetes to various parts of the Sultanate. 

How do you plan to connect with the diabetes community in Oman? 
Most studies attribute diabetes as a lifestyle based condition. Increased amounts of stress coupled with lack of exercise and a poor diet are the main causes of the condition. This is made much worse with the lack of knowledge about the condition. 

Increasingly sedentary lifestyle is creating a diabetic epidemic across the world. Through the walkathon we want to spread awareness about the condition and encourage people to get active and eat healthy since these are essential to battle the condition. 

In 2011, the Landmark Group partnered with the International Diabetes Federation (IDF). Tell us more about it? 
The Group has inked a partnership with the International Diabetes Federation (IDF), an umbrella organisation of over 200 national diabetes associations in over 160 countries. 

Its mission is to promote diabetes care, prevention and a cure worldwide. Landmark Group has become the organisation’s first retail corporate supporter partner. This acknowledgement by IDF lends credibility to the Beat Diabetes Campaign and will also position the Group as the ‘Official Partner of World Diabetes Day’. 

How many countries are a part of this walkathon? What has been the response at other places? 

Since its launch of the Beat Diabetes campaign in the UAE in 2009, the initiative has grown in reach and participation. It currently has a presence across seven countries, including Kuwait, Bahrain, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and India. This year we have already received tremendous response to the walk, over 12,000 people joined the walk in UAE, 8,000 in India, 6,000 in Qatar and 5,000 in Kuwait. These increasing numbers goes to show that our aim to increase awareness about diabetes is gaining momentum and we intend to increase this outreach next year. 

Having been a person involved in spreading awareness about diabetes, what advice would you give people who are just diagnosed with diabetes? How does early diagnosis change one’s life? 

Awareness is the first step in the battle against diabetes. If detected early the condition can be managed through exercise and a healthy diet. 

This is one of the key reasons we urge people to get their blood glucose levels tested through our ‘Beat Diabetes – Take the Test’ campaign. With high incidences of diabetes in the region, it is essential for people to get their blood glucose levels tested regularly. Although there is no cure for diabetes, it can be controlled by adopting a healthy lifestyle. This is the message that Landmark Group has been striving to put across through its Beat Diabetes initiative. 

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