Abu Dhabi, UAE: The field of health care in the emirate of Abu Dhabi is witnessing steady gains against a range of communicable diseases and public health threats, and these have been attained through a variety of awareness, screening and preventative programmes by regulators and health-care entities.
While new strategies to address residents’ health are currently in the works, officials at the emirate’s health sector regulator, the Health Authority Abu Dhabi (Haad), are also working to set comprehensive standards for health-care facilities. Meanwhile, concerted efforts by multiple authorities ensured that the number of people afflicted with infectious diseases did not spiral out of control.
According to the latest statistics provided by the Haad, there are currently 41 hospitals in the emirate, along with 335 clinics and 587 medical centres. A total of 502 pharmacies serve residents. These facilities employ more than 30,000 medical professionals, including more than 6,800 physicians, 14,200 nurses and midwives, 1,200 dentists, and 2,400 pharmacists.
While 25 per cent of deaths were attributed to cardiovascular disease in 2012, obesity rates were recorded at 33 per cent among men and 38 per cent among women. At the same time, various cancers accounted for nearly 14 per cent of fatalities. The new strategy will therefore call for greater responsibility among residents to tackle the prevalence of chronic diseases, Dr Omniyat Al Hajeri, director of public health and research at the Haad, had said.
In addition, the plan will include provisions for biobanking, a procedure in which medical professionals will collect and study biological samples from patients with non-communicable diseases. Further analysis of these samples could help detect genetic variations particular to UAE residents, which can then be used to create more country-specific preventative measures and treatments.
There are positive signs, however, as many cancer preventative programmes have proved successful in reducing the proportion of patients detected in late stages. For example, the uptake of a vaccine that protects against most forms of cervical cancer was as high as 93 per cent among girl pupils in the 2013-2014 academic year. Moreover, the late stage diagnosis of breast cancer has also fallen from 64 per cent in 2007 to just 16 per cent in 2012, while 16,800 mammograms were conducted across the emirate in 2013.
The emirate was also effective in stemming the tide of communicable diseases, including the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (Mers-CoV) that infected a number of residents in the beginning of the year. With proper precautionary measures and widespread awareness campaigns across schools, companies and health-care facilities, the number of cases detected has dwindled to none since the summer. And, so far, no patients infected with the Ebola virus have yet been reported in the emirate. The Haad also conducted its annual vaccination programme over the summer to educate residents about the need to protect themselves.
Meanwhile, greater care has been exercised to ensure that injury and poisoning risks in the emirate are reduced. According to data collected over 2013, 55 per cent of all non-fatal injuries and 62 per cent of non-fatal poisonings occurred within domestic settings, while 591 fatal injuries were also noted, with 62 per cent of them traffic-related. Accordingly, health officials urged residents to take more precautions at home and when on the road.
To improve childhood health, the emirate’s education sector regulator, the Abu Dhabi Education Council (Adec), has also called upon organisations to develop long-term health and wellness strategies. These are essential because 40 per cent of teenagers in Abu Dhabi are currently overweight, and 72 per cent do not engage in regular physical activity. There are also other concerns about dental health and bullying.
Several healthy trends have also been noted in 2014.
Voluntary rehab: For example, the National Rehabilitation Centre, a federal entity which offers treatment for Emiratis against drug addiction, announced that 70 per cent of patients had opted for treatment at their facility voluntarily.
Awareness sessions: Alzheimer’s disease, a debilitating form of dementia that could see a growth in prevalence among UAE residents because of the high rate of diabetes and obesity in the country, has been the focus of awareness sessions. A three-year grant has been made as well to Swedish researchers by philanthropic organisation, Salama Bint Hamdan Al Nahyan Foundation, in order to advance scientific research for the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of the disease.
Mall-based medical centres: The first mall-based medical centres and clinics were also established in Abu Dhabi this year. The first of these are located in the World Trade Centre Mall and the Deerfields Town Square, and more are expected to come up over the coming years.
© Gulf NewsNov 2014