Over 43,000 UAE women now aware of the ‘silent disease’

More than 124,000 women across the GCC have been assessed to see if they are at risk of developing the devastating disease osteoporosis, thanks to the free Bone Health Check programme offered by Anlene, the brand of dairy products specially formulated for adults to help build healthy bones and prevent osteoporosis.

In the UAE alone, more than 43,000 women over the age of 21 from all backgrounds and nationalities have taken advantage of the painless ultrasound assessment, which provides information on bone health and bone quality. Dr. Humeira Badsha, Rheumatology Specialist in Dubai, and an Anlene Bone Health Ambassador, says these figures show a step in the right direction for osteoporosis-awareness. “The Middle East region has one of the poorest bone health records anywhere in the world and women need to take the initiative to get their bones scanned to ensure they are giving themselves every opportunity to help prevent osteoporosis.”

Fonterra, the company behind Anlene, has spent more than US$54 million in the last decade to better understand osteoporosis and works closely with the International Osteoporosis Foundation to raise awareness. Kamal Gupta, Managing Director, Fonterra Brands, Middle East Africa and Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) says: “We have been offering free bone scanning for almost six years across Asia and the Middle East and reached more than four million women. Our Anlene team in Dubai will be offering bone scanning at hundreds of health events, malls and clinics throughout 2011.

32% of Dubai schoolchildren are overweight

The latest statistics from a Beat Obesity Campaign reveals that over 32% of schoolchildren in Dubai are overweight or obese. The findings are the results of obesity tests conducted on 1,071 students across nine schools in Dubai. As many as 343 children of this sample were overweight or obese.

The survey is a Landmark Group initiative, organised in collaboration with the Knowledge and Human Development Authority (KHDA) and Zulekha Hospital. It will eventually cover a total of 18 private and government schools across the city. Campaigns will be held in another 100 schools to spread awareness about childhood obesity and juvenile diabetes.

Nafeesa Ahmad, Director, Nutrition and Lifestyle Management at Zulekha Health Care Group said: “Overweight youth are now developing adult-type diseases and have a higher frequency of Type 2 diabetes, high blood lipids, high blood pressure, early maturation, gynaecological abnormalities, pulmonary diseases, skin disorders and orthopaedic problems. These conditions worsen as the degree of obesity increases.”

HAAD promotes transparency

In a move to promote transparency within the healthcare sector, the Health Authority - Abu Dhabi (HAAD), has launched an improved 2010 version of its annual Health Statistics and, for the first time, a Healthcare Capacity Masterplan.

The Health Statistics, published annually since 2008, reports on population trends, public health highlights and investor developments. Two key areas of interest include performance of the Emirate in delivering diabetes care, as well as the clinical performance of individual doctors.

The Emirate has high rates of chronic diseases related to life style such as obesity, diabetes and cardiovascular disease (CVD) and they already accounted for more than a quarter of all deaths in the Emirate in 2010. To prevent chronic diseases adult UAE Nationals were screened for risk factors. As around 1 in 5 adult Nationals already are diabetics, it is important to know whether they are all receiving appropriate diabetes care. New statistics show that diabetes care is better in women, older patients and those with better health insurance coverage. The reporting and monitoring of this information has allowed HAAD to structure health promotion programmes that promote education and awareness across all age groups.

HAAD is not only looking at the health sector’s performance in providing care for conditions like diabetes, but has also begun monitoring clinical indicators for 1,211 licensed facilities, and the 4,757 physicians working there. New indicators look in detail at doctor’s prescribing errors, such as prescribing antibiotics, when the patient only has a common cold. The antibiotics are not effective for a common cold, and may even contribute to making bacteria antibiotic-resistant.

The Capacity Masterplan defines how health services should be organised in the future. It takes into account the analysis of the current provision of health care and projected future healthcare needs.

HAAD 2010 Health Statistics and Capacity Masterplan www.haad.ae/Statistics

H5N1 strains in Egypt show new H5 mutations

Recent studies of the H5N1 avian influenza virus in Egypt suggest the emergence of new H5 mutations or sublineages that show increased ability to bind to cell receptors in the lower respiratory tract but not the larynx of humans. The new data provides a better understanding of the virus’s pandemic potential.

The findings are published in the 26 May 2011 issue of PLoS Pathogens.

Researchers from Egypt, Japan, and Thailand conducted a phylogenetic analysis of H5N1 viruses isolated from 2006 to 2009 in Egypt. Using reverse genetics, they found that several new sublineages have acquired an enhanced receptor-binding affinity of the viral hemagglutinin to alpha-2,6-linked sialic acid (SA), which is a receptorbinding trait of human influenza strains. The mutation was associated with increased attachment to and infectivity in the lower respiratory tract but not the larynx of humans and also demonstrated increased virulence in mice.

The authors conclude: “Our findings suggested that emergence of new H5 sublineages with alpha-2,6 SA specificity caused a subsequent increase in human H5N1 influenza virus infections in Egypt, and provided data for understanding the virus’s pandemic potential.” doi:10.1371/journal.ppat.1002068

Abu Dhabi to host 2015 Asian Pacific Congress of Cardiology

Abu Dhabi has sealed the hosting of another major medical congress with news that the 2015 Asian Pacific Congress of Cardiology, the biennial scientific meeting representing the collegiate membership of 18 societies throughout the Asia Pacific region, will be held in the UAE capital bringing 3,000 medical specialists to the city. It will be the first time the congress has been staged in a Middle Eastern city.

This is the second major international medical congress to be hosted by Abu Dhabi. In February next year, the UAE capital will host the World Ophthalmology Congress – the oldest running medical congress. Between 8,000 and 12,000 delegates are expected in the city.

Siemens completes challenging delivery of $69m Iraqi MoH order

Siemens has completed the delivery under some very challenging conditions of a range of medical equipment to various sites in Iraq. The order with the Iraqi Ministry of Health was for US$69-million to supply a range of diagnostic equipment including CT scanners, MRI units, mobile X-rays, ultrasound and mammography systems.

Siemens had to deliver 419 systems to more than 30 sites in Iraq, in a time period of less than nine months, from July 2010 to March 2011. The systems were manufactured at the Siemens factories in Germany and Spain and were then dispatched to either Baghdad or Erbil and from those cities transported to the installation sites.

Speaking to Middle East Health about the success of this deal and the completion of the delivery in time, Maurice Faber, Vice President, Siemens Healthcare in the Middle East, said it was a particularly challenging project to deliver and install all this equipment to various sites across Iraq as much of the country’s infrastructure, damaged during the Iraq war, is still being rebuilt.

“We are really proud of this achievement,” he said and commended all involved in the project including the Siemens teams and their local partner in Iraq, Al Itkan, whose engineers installed the equipment at the various hospitals.

The project required close coordination between the project team and factories as well as selected freight forwarders.

For their outstanding contribution Al Itkan was recently honoured with an award in the field of ‘project management’ at Siemens’ 6th Global Partner Conference in Hamburg, Germany.

“Some of these pieces of equipment are very large and heavy,” Faber explained. “Transporting them by air is very difficult. The MRI scanners, for example, have to be transported at -279 degrees C to keep the magnet stable. This is done with liquid helium and you have only three weeks to get it from factory to installation site where it can be plugged in before the helium runs out.”

Part of the deal is to provide training on how to use the equipment. He said local training had been completed and specialist training of more than 100 doctors, operators and engineers from the Iraqi MoH in Germany is on-going.

55% of chronic low-back pain is nerve-related

A new study on the prevalence of nerve pain in adults suffering from chronic lowback pain in the Gulf has revealed that neuropathic pain is present in 55% of all cases of the condition – making it more common than nociceptive pain.

The study funded by Pfizer was carried out in the UAE, Bahrain, Oman, Qatar and Kuwait included 1,134 people who had suffered with back pain for more than three months, and whose pain was assessed using the Leeds Assessment of Neuropathic Symptoms and Signs (LANSS) Pain Scale during their routine outpatients’ appointment.

Results show that neuropathic pain was present in more than half (55.4%) of the study’s participants with the remainder suffering from nociceptive pain alone – making nerve pain the major contributor to chronic low-back pain which affects between six to 15% of the adult population.

Dr Waguih El Sissi, Head of Orthopaedics, Sheikh Khalifa Hospital, Ajman said: “Determining the prevalence of the nerve pain component of low-back pain is important because it is essential for choosing the most effective treatment options for patients, and for determining the healthcare costs associated with the condition as the costs of caring for those with nerve pain is 70% higher than for those with nociceptive pain.” Further results show, however, that only 11.4% of the patients in the study with nerve pain were receiving the correct treatment – leading the authors to call for all doctors managing low- back pain to screen patients for neuropathic pain using the LANSS test to ensure appropriate treatment.

Rates of neuropathic pain were highest in patients with a diagnosis of disc prolapse (65.2%) and spinal canal stenosis (62.6%), occurring alone or with other causes of low- back pain. Neuropathic pain was also significantly more common among older patients, females, those with diabetes and patients who had a history of previous medical treatment.

Study participants who were found to have neuropathic pain had their treatment plans adjusted to include drugs such as pregabalin, gabapentin, nortriptyline and despipramine – all of which are recommended under international guidelines as first line treatments for peripheral neuropathic pain.

HAAD’s Weqaya Task Force holds first policy meeting

The Health Authority – Abu Dhabi (HAAD), the regulatory body of the healthcare sector in the Emirate of Abu Dhabi, recently hosted the first meeting of the Weqaya Advisory Task Force. The Task Force, consisting of senior leadership from across the Abu Dhabi government and noted international academics, has been mandated to provide advice on policy interventions, scope and protocols for managing compliance of the Weqaya programme.

The Weqaya programme has screened 175,000 Emiratis, over 94% of adults over 18 years of age, for diabetes and other cardiovascular risk factors. Diabetes and cardiovascular disease are two of the most common disorders to affect Abu Dhabi’s local population. Interventions include access to preventive healthcare, group interventions for workplace and schools and population interventions to increase access to healthy food and exercise.

The first meeting of the Task Force laid out the roles and responsibilities of each of the 15 members, which include representatives from Abu Dhabi Food Control Authority, London School of Economics, World Health Organisation, and Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. Members are expected to contribute inputs on approaches to data capture, tobacco control and proposed communication strategies both at an individual and group level.

According to findings from the Weqaya programme, 71% of Emirati adults have at least one CVD risk factor already and 18% have evidence of diabetes. Analysis shows that affirmative action could help prevent 6,600 heart attacks and strokes in the next 10 years and save 3,000 Emirati lives.

Saudi adopts new standard for clinical coding

The Saudi Arabian Ministry of Health and its medical insurance regulating arm, the Cooperative Healthcare Insurance Council have officially adopted ICD-10- AM as the national standard for coding healthcare information in the Kingdom.

ICD-10-AM is the International Statistical Classification of Diseases and Related Health Problems, Tenth Revision, Australian Modification – essentially a coding of diseases and signs, symptoms, abnormal findings, complaints, social circumstances and external causes of injury or diseases, as classified by the World Health Organisation.

Hospitals around the world record the symptoms of all patients. Clinical coders then translate the notes into universal codes, whose source is ICD-10. Australia’s National Centre for Classification in Health (NCCH) then took the coding system a step further, creating ICD-10- AM, which now includes codes for treatments as well.

“Health experts across the globe use these codes to track the spread of diseases and epidemics, identify common causes of death and illnesses by geographic region and improve health service planning at the local and national levels. By adopting ICD-10-AM (Australian Modification), the Saudi Arabian Ministry of Health, the Council of Cooperative Health Insurance, the Council of Health Services and major healthcare sectors will now be able to improve the quality of healthcare throughout the Kingdom and streamline health insurance communications by utilising one common set of classification codes,” said Regina G. Weber, MBA, RHIA, Senior Coding Consultant, MedFormatix/Excellence Health Training Institute.

New authority for Dubai Healthcare City

A new authority for Dubai Healthcare City (DHCC) was recently launched to oversee the functions of Dubai Healthcare City and give a boost to the emirate as a medical tourism hub. The Dubai Healthcare City Authority (DHCA) has also been set up to attract a wide spectrum of complementary industries ranging from drug manufacturers, research laboratories and pharmacies.

Princess Haya Bint Al Hussain, wife of HH Sheikh Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, has been appointed as president of the DHCA, which has full financial and administrative autonomy to achieve its objectives.

DHCC was launched in 2000 and currently accommodates two hospitals and 90 medical facilities including outpatient clinics and diagnostic laboratories. Healthcare City has helped attract medical tourists from the neighbouring Gulf states who visit for a range of services from plastic surgery to treatment through alternative medicine.

The DHCA will also aim to attract top specialists to the emirate.

The DHCA is also mandated to establish. either by itself or in partnership with other entities, top-tier medical colleges and universities, nursing schools and a wide range of research, diagnostic, rehabilitation, nutrition and physiotherapy centres. Under new legislation, the authority will assume responsibility for imposing and collecting fees for services rendered.

The DHCA will also oversee all transactions involving lands within DHCC, including matters pertaining to the ownership, sale, leasing and mortgaging of properties and facilities under its ownership.

Qatar unveils strategy to coordinate biomed research

According to a report in Nature Medicine, Qatar unveiled its first National Health Strategy (NHS) in April, which covers the next five years and includes a plan to launch a new national governance body to better manage resources and coordinate projects across the various biomedical centres in the country. The newly proposed Qatar Medical Research Council (QMRC) will be based in Doha and will be responsible for coordinating research efforts between institutions and communicating the scientific outcomes to policymakers.

Currently, most of the scientific work taking place in Qatar is in basic biomedical research, and in 2006 the country committed to raising science funding to 2.8% of its gross domestic product. “Given the generous resources and the unwavering strive to excellence, it is worthwhile considering how to enhance the current elements involved in biomedical science and health research in Qatar,” Momtaz Wassef, a former director of Qatar's Department of Biomedical Research at the Supreme Council of Health who advised on the new NHS plan, was quoted as saying.

David Kerr, professor of cancer medicine at University of Oxford in the UK and a past member of the executive committee for Qatar's 2011–2016 NHS, was quoted as saying that the current funding bodies lacked strategic oversight and did not obviously connect to the needs of the Supreme Health Council.

He added that the new QMRC is not designed to replace current funding schemes. Source: Nature Medicine: doi:10.1038/nm0511-520b

Pilot scheme uses 3G mobile tech for clinical diagnosis in Egypt

Qualcomm, through its Wireless Reach initiative, the Egyptian Company for Mobile Services (Mobinil), Click Diagnostics, along with the Egyptian Ministry of Health (MoH), supported by the Ministry of Communications and Information Technology (MCIT), have launched a pilot programme to test technology to enable doctors to make clinical diagnoses from a remote location. The technology framework will be tested with dermatologists who will use Mobinil’s 3G mobile network to diagnose skin conditions remotely.

Located in Cairo, the programme enables physicians to take photographs of patient skin conditions and capture symptoms in text format using a 3Genabled wireless device. This information is then sent through Mobinil’s 3G HSPA mobile broadband network to swiftly obtain diagnosis from specialists working elsewhere. During this pilot phase, both an onsite physician and a remote specialist diagnose skin conditions, and the results are then compared to confirm the prognosis. To date, diagnosis comparisons completed during the pilot have demonstrated full agreement in 82.2% of cases examined.

Medical staff at the clinics have been equipped with handsets with high-resolution cameras and an application that enables them to send photographs and contextual information about skin conditions to the appropriate specialist.

Mobile phones loaded with customised software have the capability to gather health-related data and medical studies have shown that cameras on mobile phones are now advanced enough to take photos that have enough resolution to allow doctors to diagnose skin conditions accurately and remotely.

Teledermatology has been successfully used in clinics throughout the world, but the equipment and processes currently used for teledermatology, such as digital cameras, laptop or desktop computers and wired Internet connectivity, often make telemedicine services cumbersome to use and deploy, and expensive to expand and scale. Mobile phones can combine the functionality of this equipment into a smaller, less expensive, portable device and 3G networks support the high-bandwidth data transfer capabilities required to send highresolution photos over the Internet.

Dr Hoda Baraka, first deputy to the Minister of ICT said: “The Egyptian Teledermatology initiative, using mobile health technology, is inspired by pursuing equal opportunities for health services anywhere in Egypt and expanding medical insurance to all citizens. E-health programmes bring better diagnostic and health services to a wider segment of the Egyptian society.”

Record number of physicians graduate at WCMC-Q

The 2011 graduating class of Weill Cornell Medical College in Qatar had a record number of graduates as 31 physicians received their US medical degrees.

Dr Javaid Sheikh, dean of WCMC-Q said: “In addition to personal achievements, as a class they were able to accomplish so much more, traveling to developing nations to serve communities in need, and collaborating with Hamad Medical Corporation, the Supreme Council of Health and Reach Out to Asia, locally, to institute local programs that have and will positively impacted countless lives.”

The new physicians number 18 women and 13 men. Qataris are the largest national group within the graduating class. There 16 nationalities in all – Algeria, Bahrain, Bosnia, Canada, Egypt, France, India, Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon, Mauritania, Mauritius, Qatar, Russia, Syria, and the U.S. Among them, they speak 11 languages – Arabic, English, French, Bosnian, German, Spanish, Hindi, Malayalam, Urdu, Tamil and Creole.

Cornell President David Skorton, MD commented: “These graduates have been extraordinarily successful in finding their next opportunities as residents and research fellows. Some of them have elected to stay in Qatar for residency programmes with Hamad Medical Corporation or to pursue research fellowships. The 23 WCMC-Q students who sought residencies in the US were matched to some of America’s best teaching hospitals. To achieve so many excellent placements in the US is a testament to the high quality of the WCMC-Q programme and to the exceptional talent and commitment that the graduates have brought to their medical education.”

Trumpf to kit out Iraqi hospital

Trumpf is helping to fit out a new hospital complex under construction in the northern Iraqi city of Sulaymaniyah which will set new standards for the country.

“Iraq is engaged in some major development projects, particularly in the healthcare sector. But this fact tends to get obscured by the negative headlines about Iraq that dominate reports in Europe,” says Lars Michel, who heads up Trumpf’s regional office in Dubai, UAE.

In mid-January, Michel and Trumpf’s Iraqi partner Al-Bayan signed a major contract to equip all the operating rooms and intensive care units of the Faruk Medical Centre in Sulaymaniyah. This US$100-million project, run by the private investors group Faruk Group Holding, involves a hospital with 147 beds, 47 clinics and a hotel. The hospital, which is scheduled to open at the end of this year, aims to set new standards in medical equipment and medical services in the healthcare sector.

Trumpf will provide 80 of its latest generation TruPort ceiling-mounted supply units to equip the operating rooms, intensive care units, recovery rooms and emergency department with the necessary gas, electricity and data hook-ups. Seven high-end TruSystem 7500 OR table systems will provide wide-ranging support to surgeons while an ORBITER patient transfer system will help move patients between zones. The intensive care units will feature the innovative lighting solution AmbientLine. 


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