GCC-wide consumer health survey reveals increasing autonomy in decision-making

A major study into the health habits of the region’s population, released at a recent ‘Healthy People’ seminar in Dubai, reveals a strong desire from GCC residents to take responsibility for their personal wellbeing. The survey finds that the increasing availability of health information is empowering the consumer and influencing their decision- making when it comes to purchasing health-related products and services.

Over 2,000 adults across the UAE, KSA, Oman, Bahrain, Qatar and Kuwait took part in the on-line poll, with the largest number of respondents (781) located in the UAE. The survey was conducted by YouGov Siraj, a subsidiary of YouGov, the UK's leading online polling and market research company. The organisation’s questionnaire assessed attitudes and opinions towards health and lifestyle and established that health is still the number one priority for those living and working in the Gulf.

“Forty-one per cent of the survey respondents identified that it was their good health and the good health of their families that was the chief concern in their lives,” said Nadim Khoury, managing director of Healthy People, a new venture from leading international communications agency, Grey Group. Healthy People commissioned the research. “This was the highest percentage in all the categories, which also included spirituality, their children’s education, job security and financial prosperity.”

Although 49% of the survey’s respondents believed that more personal responsibility is taken over health today, 60% claimed that they thought they were unhealthy. Many of the responses garnered from the research were clearly related to the rapid urbanisation of the Gulf region, with modernisation being cited as something that was both a boon and a problem for wellbeing.  

“There are very few parts of the world that have experienced such rapid development as the Gulf region, with the area witnessing incredible changes over the past few years,” said Khoury. “This speed of progress is highlighted in both positive and negative terms by participants in the study, with respondents citing the benefits from the advances in medical treatment that are found the alongside the disadvantages of urban life, such as rising rates of obesity, a junk food diet and pollution.”

One of the most significant findings from the survey was that individuals are becoming much more pro-active in seeking healthcare solutions to the extent that they are eschewing the traditional, established model that involves first visiting a doctor. Many health treatment seekers are instead now communicating directly with pharmacists for advice and information on the right drugs that they should buy for their conditions. Fifty-four per cent of respondents admitted to self- medicating without first receiving a doctor’s input, with 24% revealing that they ‘very often’ purchase antibiotics without attending surgery for a consultation beforehand.

“There is an increasing tendency for people to take a more autonomous role when looking for treatment options, something that means that they are making a personal selection when it comes to purchasing medication for their conditions,” said Khoury. “Many adults now head directly to a pharmacy when seeking health solutions and the research revealed a growing confidence in health consumers that is governing their decision making.”  

The YouGov Siraj study identified Emiratis as being the highest spenders for healthcare products and services in the region.  

Another significant finding was that while the names of drug companies themselves don’t impact heavily on customers, the brand names of their products do.

It is thought that such data from the study could have ramifications for the provision of consumer healthcare services across the GCC region and influence how commercial health organisations communicate their messaging.  

Dubai heart surgeon pioneers new open heart bypass technique

A new and extremely promising surgical technique in open heart bypass surgery has been pioneered by The Heart Center at the American Hospital Dubai, with its first Middle East patient undergoing treatment in Dubai, in October last year. The procedure was performed at the hospital by Professor Dr Uwe Klima, MD, PhD, Professor of Surgery and Chief Department of Cardiothoracic Surgery. Professor Dr Klima was also the first surgeon worldwide to use the technique on a human patient and holds the exclusive rights for the medical device and treatment in the Middle East.

Coronary artery bypass grafting surgery (CABG) is widely used for the surgical treatment of diseased coronary arteries. However, as many as 50% of grafts fail within 10 years after CABG. The new surgical procedure is based on a medical device called External Saphenous Vein Stent (eSVS) – a stent-like mesh tube made of Nitinol (nickel-titanium alloy), which slides over the patient’s own saphenous vein, for two main reasons: firstly, to make the vein smaller in diameter to create a better fit for connection with the diseased coronary artery; and secondly, to protect the vein from the high blood pressure in the bypass system and consequently to protect the graft from degeneration.

Professor Klima, who was the first surgeon worldwide to implant this device in humans in 2007 at the National University of Singapore, explains: “The greater saphenous vein is widely used as bypass material in coronary artery bypass surgery; however, because it is built as a conduit in a low blood pressure system, these veins usually degenerate over time caused by intimal thickening, dilatation and calcification of the bypasses. This usually leads to interventions or reoperations, 10 to 20 years after bypass surgery. This problem can potentially be overcome with this new technique, which is an elegant, simple and effective solution, and thus avoids the necessity of a second operation. We are very pleased to have introduced this advanced procedure into the region and all the patients treated at The Heart Center have done well.”  

Thousands participate in diabetes walkathon

More than 7,500 UAE residents joined legendary cricketer Wasim Akram to participate in the second ‘Beat Diabetes Walkathon’ at the Oasis Centre in Dubai in November.  

The event was organised by the Landmark Group and supported by Dubai Sports Council.

Renuka Jagtiani, Vice Chairperson of the Landmark Group, commented on the massive turn-out, saying: “The unprecedented support we have received from all quarters for our second Beat Diabetes Walkathon is indeed heartening. We are proud of the residents of the UAE who stepped out of their homes on a Friday morning to show support for a cause that truly deserves due attention. This sets the tone for the other Beat Diabetes Walkathons being hosted in five other countries where we have launched the campaign this year – Bahrain, Oman, Kuwait, Qatar & India.”

The Beat Diabetes Walkathon began with a high octane mass warm-up conducted by Fitness First for all the participants, followed by a diabetic Tai-chi demonstration by Master John Duval, a 5 Dan black belt from Shaolin Temple, with IVF, and produced the first child conceived using IVF in 1978. Bourn Hall founder Dr Bob Edwards was awarded the 2010 Nobel Prize in Medicine for his pioneering work.

The investment in Bourn Hall International marks the second investment by private equity firm TVM Capital MENA in the last four months; the previous being Pro Vita, the first long-term care and rehabilitation facility for patients requiring ventilator support in the UAE.  

In the Middle East, Bourn Hall International will operate a network of branded IVF facilities across the region that will operate at the same quality level and operating procedures as the clinic in the UK. The first clinic in the region is due to open in 2011.  

Call to co-operate for vaccine procurement

Jordan, Syria, Palestine, Lebanon and Iraq should form a pooled vaccine procurement mechanism so as to negotiate collectively in purchasing vaccines, health experts told a symposium in Amman on 22 November.

According to a report in the Jordan Times, experts at the symposium, which looked at new vaccines for the most common causes of pneumonia and diarrhoea, pointed out that a procurement system joining the five countries, whose combined population totals around 60 million, would result in better deals on vaccines than if each country handles procurement on its own.

Miloud Kaddar, senior health economist at the World Health Organisation, said: “This is not just related to negotiating better vaccine prices, but also will help with sharing information on suppliers and products and jointly requesting information from health organisations to make informed decisions.”  

Ezzeddine Mohsni, coordinator of diseases surveillance, elimination and eradication at the WHO’s Eastern  

over 20 years of experience. Free blood glucose testing along with a healthy breakfast were also offered to all participants.  

Wasim Akram, international cricketer and spokesperson for diabetes who led the walkathon, said: “Diabetes is a serious threat to anyone and affects people of all ages. My personal struggle with the condition has required a lot of patience. Like any other person, maintaining a consistent, disciplined lifestyle and monitoring sugar levels has always remained a challenge.”

Avian flu fatality in Egypt  

A 30-year-old man, a resident of Dakahlia governorate died of bird flu [influenza A/(H5N1) virus infection] on 6 December 2010, in the al-Sadr hospital in Zagazig. He was one of 5 suspected cases under treatment.

This case is the 114th (24th in 2010) human case of avian A/(H5N1) virus infection recorded in Egypt since the first human case in 2006. The victim is the 12th fatality in 2010 (38th overall).

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TVM Capital MENA brings Nobel Prize winning IVF facility to Middle East  

TVM Capital MENA has invested in Bourn Hall International, a move which will bring the world class In-Vitro Fertilization (IVF) concept to the MENA region. Based in the UK, Bourn Hall was the world’s first IVF clinic and the deal with TVM Capital marks its first international expansion.  

The founders of Bourn Hall pioneered of Mediterranean regional office, was reported as saying the meeting should lead to active work, urging health officials from the five countries to “stop talking about the science and move to implementation”.  

HAAD establishes clinical lab standards  

Health Authority - Abu Dhabi (HAAD), the regulatory body of the healthcare sector in the Emirate of Abu Dhabi has established new Clinical Laboratory Standards, a tool to enable reliable excellence in laboratory service within Abu Dhabi, and to encourage continuous quality improvement.  

In addition, the standard provides an objective basis for identifying unacceptable practice and enforces a robust core quality standard.

Erik Koornneef, health audit manager at HAAD said: “The HAAD Clinical Laboratory Standards must be used by all Clinical laboratories in the emirate of Abu Dhabi to ensure alignment with the regulatory requirements of HAAD and with federal and emirate law.  

“The Standards have an interim advisory status during the pressure-testing phase; this allows the HAAD audit team to work closely with the healthcare sector in support of early implementation issues and identifying training needs, whilst also encouraging the sector to share its experience and feedback with HAAD.”

The HAAD Clinical Laboratory Standards detail specific requirements, including both a baseline acceptable standard for Abu Dhabi and high-quality targets for providers to aspire to achieve.  

The standards provide measurable elements to drive quality assurance processes and are designed to be responsive to changes in medical practices and technologies, and to experiences gained in practice.

Zaid Al Siksek, CEO of HAAD said: “The HAAD Clinical Laboratory Standards were developed in collaboration with the Joint Commission International (JCI), with substantial input from the Abu Dhabi health care sector.”

Information security

Meanwhile, HAAD announced recently that it has received the prestigious ISO 27001:2005 certification – the world’s highest accreditation for information

protection and security, from the International Organization for Standardization (ISO).  

The certification was awarded due to HAAD’s possession of and compliance with high technical standards of information security, operations and security procedures, especially related to their information technology services.

The ISO 27001 certification places HAAD on par with leading international health authorities in the field of security and protection of their customer data.

Jordan’s KHCC gets WHO collaborative centre status  

The King Hussein Cancer Centre (KHCC) has received accreditation from the World Health Organisation (WHO) as a collaborative centre for training in the Middle East, representatives from the two institutions announced on 30 November.  

The KHCC is the second centre in the region to receive the organisation’s accreditation, after a facility in Iran, and was selected due to its distinguished services and expertise, Hashem Zein, WHO representative in Jordan, told the Jordan Times.  

In addition, the two institutions signed an agreement under which the KHCC will be used as a research centre in the region and will draft a regional strategy to combat cancer to which countries of the region can refer in drafting protocols.

KHCC director general Mahmoud Sarhan said WHO’s aim in selecting KHCC as a collaborative centre is to help empower other countries in the region by training them in cancer treatment and helping them improve health infrastructure.

ME medical devices trade body looks to extend reach across wider region  

Mecomed, the Dubai-based Middle East Medical Devices and Diagnostics Trade Association, is extending its reach to incorporate North Africa and the greater Middle East region as the organisation expands its vision of representing the broader regional industry and emulating the success of similar industry associations in other regions. Following the lastest Mecomed quarterly meeting in October last year, the organisation is also now seeking to appoint full time staff as its activity programme develops strongly with a focus on regulatory affairs.

According to the chairman of the organisation, Mecomed currently represents more than 50% of the regional industry, which is worth more than US$1 billion per annum.

“Mecomed aims to grow to represent 80% of the regional industry, within the next one to two years,” said Craig McLaren, regional managing director, MD&D, Johnson & Johnson for Middle East, Egypt and Pakistan. “The medical device and diagnostics industry continues to grow and develop in the region, and the regulatory environment in the region is changing fast and we need to keep pace. In response to this, Mecomed is pushing beyond the GCC to engage countries in the wider Middle East and North Africa.”

Mecomed’s initial focus has been on regulatory affairs and compliance, and the organisation has successfully launched a code of conduct for the members of the regional industry based on the the European equivalent – Eucomed.  

“The improving regulatory environment is helping to create a fairer and more level playing field for the industry and Mecomed aims to contribute to this through our global expertise and knowledge, and best practice. We believe the region is doing all the right things,” explained McLaren.  

Mecomed Code of Business Practice http://tinyurl.com/3425hgc For more info on Mecomed, visit: www.mecomed.com  

Methodist International, KFSH&RC collaborate on quality & patient safety

Methodist International (MI), the international subsidiary of The Methodist Hospital in Houston and King Faisal Specialty Hospital & Research Center in Saudi Arabia, has entered into a memorandum of understanding to collaborate on quality and patient safety.

The Methodist Hospital has a long standing history with KFSH&RC dating to the 1970’s that focused on cardiovascular surgery and the establishment in 1978 of first cardiac surgery centre in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

Dr Marc Boom, executive vice president, of The Methodist Hospital formally commenced the new quality and patient safety initiative with a three-day visit to KFSH&RC late last year.  

“I was extremely impressed with the hospital and research centre,” he said. “Our collaboration will improve care for patients in Saudi Arabia, and in Houston.

“The institutions will collaborate to develop and implement joint research projects, evaluate the feasibility of cross regional benchmarking and co-host educational events in the region.”

Dr Qassim Al-Qasabi, chief executive officer of KFSH&RC said stated that “affiliation with Methodist International is a logical extension of our values and commitment to quality healthcare. We sincerely look forward to this partnership being mutually beneficial in developing best practices and advancing healthcare as a whole.”  

Twenty five national referral hospitals and medical centres are participating and benefiting from distinguished health care and outreach services of KFSH&RC. The programme develops partnerships among key regional institutions for improvements in health care by enhancing clinical practice, promoting education and training and standardising management of specific diseases.

For The Methodist Hospital, quality means ensuring a safe patient care environment. Key focus areas are highly trained doctors who practice evidence based-medicine, a quality-focused, state- of-the art teaching environment, a first- rate patient experience that aims to exceed patient expectations, and ongoing research into the most effective patient care.

Patients Platform for Multiple Sclerosis  

An affiliation of independent multiple sclerosis organisations, key opinion leaders, healthcare groups and commercial corporations have launched The Middle East Multiple Sclerosis Patients Platform with the aim of improving the life of MS patients in the region.  

Commenting on the initiative, Dr Tawfik Alsadi, head of Neurology Division at Sheikh Khalifa Medical City, Abu Dhab, said: “Every hour someone is newly diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. We are committed to building a movement by and for people with MS that will move us closer to a world free of multiple sclerosis. We want to inspire and encourage people to take action to join this movement and end the suffering of patients with this disease across the region.”

MS is an inflammatory disease in which the fatty myelin sheaths around the axons of the brain and spinal cord are damaged, leading to demyelination and scarring. It is a complex and unpredictable disease that can affect vision, hearing, memory, balance and mobility. MS takes several forms, with new symptoms occurring either in discrete attacks (relapsing forms) or slowly accumulating over time (progressive forms). Between attacks, symptoms may go away completely, but permanent neurological problems often occur, especially as the disease advances.  

The Middle East Multiple Sclerosis Patients Platform aims to streamline the advocacy, education and support activities across the region, from UAE to Iran, Lebanon to Egypt to provide ongoing support and direct services to these individuals with MS and the people close to them.  

The Middle East Multiple Sclerosis Patients Platform can be accessed here: http://realmsvoices.com/  

State-of-the-art molecular imaging centre opens in Al Ain

Abu Dhabi Mubadala Healthcare officially opened the Tawam Molecular Imaging Centre (TMIC), in Al Ain in October. TMIC is a specialist imaging centre featuring advanced diagnostic imaging systems for the detection and monitoring of cancer and heart disease.

A key feature of the centre is the Siemens PET-CT scanner, a hybrid Positron Emission Tomography and Computed Tomography device, which provides detailed imaging for the early diagnosis and tracking of cancer cardiovascular and neurological diseases.

The centre, owned by Mubadala Development Company, is a key initiative within Mubadala Healthcare’s plan to develop robust private healthcare infrastructure in Abu Dhabi through partnerships with best-in-class international healthcare providers.

The state-of-the art facility was designed by Siemens Healthcare and began seeing patients in June 2010. It is clinically operated in partnership with Johns Hopkins Medicine International with all of the Centre’s clinical staff appointed and trained by Johns Hopkins.

The centre plans to expand its services with the installation of a Siemens 3T MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging) scanner.

TMIC’s architecturally striking building is located adjacent to Al Ain’s Tawam Hospital, which is regionally-renowned as a leading oncology centre, making it ideally placed to support the existing work of the hospital. It has the capacity to perform up to 16 scans per day.

12,000 violations by Saudi med establishments  

The General Directorate of Health affairs of Riyadh Province discovered 12,000 violations in medical establishments over the past three years, according to a 11 December report in the Arab News.

Fines totalling SR11,118,000 (about US$2.96 million) were handed down to violating establishments, Dr Adnan Abdul Kareem, director general of the directorate, told the newspaper.

Some of the more common violations included: medical service before obtaining license, irregularities in the disposal of medical wastes, poor sterilisation and maintenance of equipment, and poor standards for mandatory medical check-up for expatriates.  

Research centre releases encyclopedia  of UAE medicinal plants The Zayed Complex for Herbal Research and Traditional Medicine in Abu Dhabi has recently published the first volume of the Encyclopedia of Medicinal Plants of the UAE, which includes integrated scientific data on 30 medicinal plants, currently the complex is working on the second volume that will cover a further 40 medicinal plants.  

The Zayed Complex for Herbal Research and Traditional Medicine completed a field survey for the plants of the United Arab Emirates, by collecting 4,000 herbal samples belonging to 700 species of plants, with full documentation. The Encyclopedia of Medicinal Plants of the UAE is available online: http://www.haad.ae/haad/tabid/791/Default.aspx  

Undiagnosed disease spreads in Yemen

An unknown disease causing bouts of severe fever has spread across several districts of Hodeida, in Yemen, about 200 km west of the capital Sana'a, according to a 22 November report in the Yemen Times.

A doctor told the newspaper that the disease, aided by falling temperatures at night, is seriously affecting Hodeida's rural areas, which are more exposed and vulnerable to the cold. Adults, especially those over 30, are more susceptible to contracting the disease.

A similar disease hit the same area last year [2009], but this year, its prevalence has been much higher, hitting around 40% per cent of Hodeida's population compared to the one per cent of those infected in 2009. The newspaper reports that no deaths have yet been reported, but that the disease can cause paralysis. The fever causes an acute inflammation of the joints as well as severe headaches. The fever remains undiagnosed.

However, officials from the Ministry of Health in Hodeida told the Yemen Times that it was a normal fever caused by the cold and that there was no need to panic.

Those suffering from the disease, which is known amongst locals as Al- Kritis fever, do not recover until given a strong dose of antibiotics and vitamin injections.

UAE University & Technical University of Berlin to collaborate

United Arab Emirates University (UAEU) and Technische Universität Berlin have signed a Memorandum of Understanding to collaborate on six priority areas.

. Fostering education and research cooperation between Germany and the UAE.
. Organising joint study programmes, addressing the development of study courses at the Bachelor and Master level.
. Promoting scholarships for research and training development in each university.
. Exchange of professors, researchers, students, technical and administrative personnel. . Exchange of scientific materials, as well as exchanging the experiences available at both institutions.
. Sponsoring cooperative seminars, workshops, and other scientific meetings on matters of mutual interest.  



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