UAE marks WHD

The United Arab Emirates' Ministry of Health (MoH), Dubai Healthcare City (DHCC), and Department of Health and Medical Services (DoHMS), came together in April to commemorate World Health Day 2006 with the theme “Working Together for Health.”

The Forum addressed the challenges currently being faced in the healthcare profession in the country, and expressed commitment to the development of the healthcare workforce. According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), there is a chronic global shortage of health workers, as a result of decades of underinvestment in their education, training, salaries, working environment and management.

His Excellency Humaid Mohammad Obaid Al Qutami, the UAE Minister of Health, said: “The Ministry of Health is keen on developing an effective health strategy that meets the needs of the UAE society, providing people with the best medical services, as well as training its healthcare workers.”

The UAE has achieved a number of milestones in healthcare represented by the growing number of hospitals, medical centres and the Dubai Healthcare City (under construction), which will be a regional hub of excellence in the fields of medical services, research, medical education and life science research and development.

Health units for quake

IRIN News reports that the World Health Organisation (WHO) in an attempt to meet the short-term health needs of local communities in quake-affected Pakistan has established 20 prefabricated basic health units (BHU), while another 15 were due to be completed before the end of March.

“These prefabricated BHUs are only meant to function temporarily until the reconstruction of permanent health facilities is completed, because many of the operational field hospitals [in the earthquake zone] will close by the end of March,” said Sacha Bootsma, a WHO spokesperson.

Several other relief agencies have also been planning to set up prefabricated health facilities to improve the provision to quake survivors.

About 50 prefab BHUs have been planned by the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF), while another 22 are to be established by the UN Family and Population Fund Agency (UNFPA). According to the government- run Federal Relief Commission (FRC), about 64 field hospitals, including 43 international field hospitals and another 87 medical teams, are presently operating in quake-affected areas of northern Pakistan.

According to the WHO’s latest health report covering the first two weeks of March, Acute Respiratory Infections (ARI) remain prevalent among survivors, but their prevalence is decreasing as winter turns to spring.

Welcare for Muscat

Dubai-based Welcare World Health Systems has signed a contract to manage and operate a multi-specialty outpatient surgical clinic in Muscat, Oman, the company’s first venture outside the United Arab Emirates.

The healthcare consultancy and management arm of the Varkey Group intends to make the Welcare Diagnostic & Treatment Center, as it will be know, the preferred clinic in the Al Khuwair area of the capital. Sunny Varkey, chairman of the group said: “The expansion into Oman is just the start of an international growth strategy that seeks to operate six hospitals and 30 clinics across the region by 2010.

Soon to follow will be the launch of the Welcare Eye Centre in Dubai Healthcare City (DHCC) and, in 2007, a Welcaremanaged specialist hospital also being built in DHCC called the City Hospital.

This will be followed in 2008 by another hospital at the DHCC called The Creek Hospital.” Dr Sumedha Sahni, director of quality and head of Satellite Clinics & Outreach Centers, Welcare World Health Systems said: “We will bring Welcare’s distinctive brand of highquality, holistic and ethical healthcare services to the local population and provide it in the most timely and efficient manner.

The Center will constantly seek to bring medical innovations and advanced healthcare solutions to patients as it establishes itself as a trusted and valued brand in the community.”

Welcare World operates a multi-facility healthcare network in Dubai that includes the multi-specialty, critical care Welcare Hospital; the Welcare Ambulatory Care Center, which is a full-service Day Care surgery and Outpatient Clinic, and the multispecialty Emirates Diagnostic Clinic.

Diabetes contribution

Medtronic, a world leader in insulin pump therapy and continuous glucose monitoring, has been named “Leader in Diabetes Education in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia for the Year 2005,” at the 13th Annual Meeting of Diabetes Educators in Riyadh, held recently in Saudi Arabia.

The award recognises Medtronic for their contribution in the field of diabetes especially with regard to intensive insulin therapy and training of medical personnel in the Middle East.

Iraq drug addiction

Officials at the Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs in Iraq are concerned about a noticeable increase in drug trafficking and drug addiction, especially following the seizure of large quantities of “class A” narcotics by police.

“We estimate that more than 5,000 Iraqis are consuming drugs in the south today, especially heroin, compared with 2004, when there were only around 1,500,” said Dr Kamel Ali, a senior official in the health ministry’s anti-narcotics programme. “We fear the number could be as high as 10,000 countrywide.” Sinan Youssef, a senior official in the social affairs ministry’s strategy department, told IRIN News addictions are mainly to heroin, cocaine and marijuana.

According to Youssef, the main reasons for increased rates of addiction among Iraqis are insecurity, lack of employment and terrorism, which has affected people psychologically.

Ali noted that the lack of specialised centres for the treatment of drug addiction also represented a problem for Iraqis. “The number of addicts is increasing, particularly among young people from conservative families, where there are more religious restrictions,” he said.

“This makes them look for another way to forget about the pressure that the society puts on them.” Based on investigations in Kerbala and Baghdad, drugs are coming in from Afghanistan through Iran, creating what local officials are calling a major new drug route to neighbouring countries and Europe.

Afghanistan is said to supply almost 90% of the world's opium, from which heroine is derived. According to Maj Salah Hassan of Kerbala’s crime unit, more than 100 kilos of heroin, 40 kilos of cocaine and 160 kilos of marijuana have been found by local police in Kerbala and in Najaf. “We’re very concerned that the situation is getting worse, and the seizures on the borders are increasing,” said Hassan.

Iran-Lebanon MoU

The Iran News reports that Iran and Lebanon have signed a Memorandum of
Understanding (MoU) to expand co-operation in the health sector.

Iranian Health Minister Kamran Baqeri Lankarani and his Lebanese counterpart Mohammed Khalifeh, who visited Tehran recently, stressed the need to expand their joint research projects.

The MoU also called for wider exchange of health information and to enhance exchange of medical equipment and pharmaceuticals.

UAE asthma programme

School students in the UAE are a step closer to breathing easily with the launch of the Asthma Friendly Schools Programme recently.

The Asthma Friendly School Programme (AFSP) is an initiative of the Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Education in collaboration with the Department of Health and Medical Services Dubai, Abu Dhabi Health Authority, Mothers’ Network of Asthmatic Children and Glaxo Smith Kline.

It aims to introduce a comprehensive asthma management programme to all private and public schools in the UAE. The UAE’s Minister of Health Humaid Al Qutami and the Minister of Education, Haneef Hassan were present at the launch during which a AFSP Breatha- Mobile was unveiled. The self-contained mobile asthma clinic will travel yearround treating children at schools across the UAE.

Dr Maryam Al Matrushi, School Health Services Director, MoH, said: “About three students out if every class of 30 suffers from asthma. Although the condition cannot be cured it can be controlled.

Schools can do their part to control asthma by adopting policies and procedures and co-ordinating student services to better serve students with asthma. “This is a unique initiative that recognises the huge impact that asthma has on our school students and seeks to do something about it.

Effective asthma management in a school will provide for a supportive learning environment for students with asthma, reduce rates of absences due to illness, reduce classroom disruption and more importantly, asthmatic students will be able to fully participate in a school curriculum, including physical education programme,” she added.

In the UAE asthma is considered one of the leading causes of school absence due to illness, with an average of five days absence per year due to asthma.

Arthritis foundation

Under the patronage of Her Royal Highness Princess Haya Bint Al Hussein, wife of His Highness Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of UAE and Ruler of Dubai, the Dubai Bone and Joint Center (DBAJ) recently announced the launch of the Emirates Arthritis Foundation (EAF).

The EAF aims to increase awareness and provide education about arthritis in the region and improve the quality of life for arthritis patients through leadership in the prevention, control and cure of the disease.

Princess Haya was named Honorary Patron of the EAF. “I am delighted to lend my support to the Emirates Arthritis Foundation and hope that together we can make a tangible difference to the lives of arthritis sufferers in the UAE,” said HRH Princess Haya.

“There is a general lack of awareness about this potentially crippling condition and this foundation will work towards continually addressing the health and medical needs of the community.” Under the Foundation, the DBAJ will offer a wide variety of educational programmes, targeting both healthcare providers and the general public.

DBAJ will also carry out public health screening and other education and awareness initiatives in an effort to combat misdiagnosis and delay in treatments.

Dubai-Harvard research

The Dubai Harvard Foundation for Medical Research (DHFMR) held its first scientific symposium in March entitled: Today’s Science, Tomorrow’s Cures.

At the symposium prominent academic and scientific leaders from the Gulf Region and Harvard University in the US gathered to provide local faculty and scientists with an overview of the kind of cutting-edge research that the DHFMR will enable.

To support future programmes the DHFMR has launched a campaign to raise funds. His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of UAE and Ruler of Dubai, pledged US$13.6 million.

Prince Al Walid bin Talal, CEO and Founder of the Kingdom Holding Company in Saudi Arabia pledged $5 million. The DHFMR was established through the collaboration between Harvard Medical School, Harvard Medical International, and Dubai Healthcare City.

The aim of the DHFMR is to nurture scientific leaders who will develop a life sciences research infrastructure in the region. The DHFMR’s programmes will be implemented through Harvard Medical School in Boston and the Harvard Medical School Dubai Center HMSDC) – Institute for Postgraduate Education and Research.

Healthy heart

Novartis, the pharmaceutical company, has initiated the “Healthy Heart” programme in the Middle East in an effort to get people screened for hypertension and high cholesterol.

The programme is operating on a rotational basis throughout Lebanon, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates during which free screening will be offered at participating clinics.

The programme runs from 15 January to 15 April in Lebanon; 15 February to 15 May in Saudi Arabia and 1 March to 1 June in the UAE. One of the aims of the campaign is to raise awareness of the risks of high blood pressure and high cholesterol, which can lead to stroke, heart attack and heart failure.

The campaign aims to raise awareness particularly among people who may not consider them- selves at risk. Dr V Shankar, a private physician based in Dubai, UAE, who is participating in the programme, said of the 40 to 50 patients who were screened at his clinic over a two-week period, 40% were found to be at risk.

“It’s actually a three pronged fight,” he told Middle East Health. “Hypertension, high cholesterol and diabetes are all risk factors for heart attack.

They are brought on by unhealthy lifestyle habits, the environment and genetics, so, in large part, they are preventable. “The key is to create awareness about the implications of bad diet, sedentary lifestyle and obesity and correct these.

“In the UAE the mass media is not doing enough in this regard. With 25% of the population here reportedly suffering from diabetes, it’s a major health problem,” Dr Shankar emphasised. He suggested that doctors should speak about the problem in mosques and churches in an effort to improve awareness.

“And the media can help here too,” Dr Shankar pointed out. “If people are continually bombarded with warnings about unhealthy lifestyle, they will start to change.”

DHCC-MoH sign MoU

Dubai Healthcare City (DHCC) and the United Arab Emirates Ministry of Health have signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) that aims to enhance the cooperation between the two organisations in order to collaborate on the latest medical advances, develop and promote the healthcare workforce and provide improved healthcare services in the UAE.

According to the MoU, both parties will work to develop an integrated electronic healthcare system in addition to developing a database of electronic health records through joint consulting services provided by DHCC and the Harvard Medical School Dubai Center.

DHCC and the ministry will also collaborate to further develop health education, continuing medical education, initiating fellowship programmes and training for physicians.

DHCC is made up of a core Academic Medical Centre (AMC) comprising Harvard Medical School Dubai Centre (HMSDC), Institute for Postgraduate Education and Medical research, a University Teaching Hospital (UTH) and the Dubai Harvard Foundation for Medical Research (DHFMR).

Complementing the AMC, DHCC has Medical and Wellness Clusters of worldclass private healthcare institutions.

Afghan conference

A four-day regional conference to discuss ways of boosting co-operation in Asia to curb infectious diseases in the region was held end April in the Afghan capital, Kabul, IRIN News reports.

The conference, entitled: "Health for All and Health by All: Communicable Diseases Recognise No Borders”, focused on the six diseases, including cholera, HIV/ AIDS, malaria, polio and tuberculosis (TB), still posing a health threat in the region.

“Delegates from the ministries of health of nine countries are taking part in the conference and will mainly discuss the need for mutual co-operation in preventing the spread of communicable diseases in the region,” Mohammad Din Maarij, a technical adviser to the Ministry of Public Health, said in Kabul.

Delegates from Egypt, Iran, Iraq, Kazakhstan, Pakistan, Tajikistan, Turkey, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan are among the participants of the conference supported by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and the World Health Organisation (WHO).

Health Minister Said Mohammad Amin Fatimi said that the conference, the first of its kind held in Kabul, would be the first of many opportunities to exchange views and experiences on health issues affecting the countries in the region.

War-battered Afghanistan has one of worst health indicators in the world and is largely dependent on international assistance for tackling various health problems.

Many essential health services in the country were destroyed during some three decades of war and internal strife. According to WHO estimates, approximately 70,000 new TB cases occur annually in Afghanistan and an estimated 20,000 people in the country die from the disease every year.

Two-thirds of Afghanistan’s reported TB cases are amongst women. The Central Asian state is one of just six countries in the world where polio remains endemic – the other five are Nigeria, India, Niger, Somali and Pakistan.

Charitable heart op

Mohammed Ali Diab has received free heart surgery under the auspices of the Emirates World Heart, a nonprofit organisation based in the United Arab Emirates to provide free medical services to needy people throughout the Middle East.

Diab underwent a complex beating heart surgical procedure at the Heart Center at the American Hospital Dubai, which supports the Emirates World Heart programme.

The cardiac procedure was completed successfully by Dr Fouad Azoury, Chairman of the Department of Cardiothoracic Surgery at the hospital, who explained that the patient underwent three bypasses that were completed without stopping his heart and, “more importantly, used only arteries from the chest and the arms, rather than the conventional surgery of arresting the heart and taking veins for the bypass from the legs.

This challenging total arterial beating heart procedure minimises complications and shortens the recovery period while ensuring the best long-term results.” Diab was discharged after five days. “Emirates World Heart” was established by Dr Adel Al Shamry, Consultant Cardio Thoracic Surgeon at Sheikh Zayed Military Hospital. Under the umbrella of the UAE Red Crescent, the charitable programme includes prominent cardiac surgeons from world renown international cardiac centres who offer their services in diagnosis, surgery and education to patients in need in the Arab world. Visit: www.emiratesworldheart. com

Healthworkers killed

The United Nations has condemned the 9 April killing of five health workers in Afghanistan’s northwestern province of Badghis, while calling on the government to protect the safety of those who assist the most vulnerable people, according to an IRIN News report.

Five health ministry workers, including nurses, doctors and a driver, were killed when unidentified gunmen fired on them in their clinic late in the Qadis district of Badghis province, according to officials. The UN reiterated that these clinics play a vital role in providing much needed healthcare to people in remote areas of Afghanistan.

In 2004, five workers of a Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) medical aid group, three foreigners and two Afghans, were killed in an ambush in Badghis.

MedZone for Dubai

MedZone, a leading regional manufacturer of medical equipment and testing devices, has signed an agreement with Dubai Techno Park, UAE, to set up its new Dh3 million (US$817,000) facility at the park.

The R&D and manufacturing facility will be fully functional within two years, reports Trade Arabia. MedZone manufactures medical equipment and testing devices for various illnesses, as well as high-tech devices such as bluetooth ECG machines and USBbased medical devices.

Dubai Techno Park is being developed as a hub for various industries and the new economic zone provides attractive incentives, worldclass infrastructure and single-window clearance.

Yemen polio

The number of confirmed polio cases in Yemen has risen following the discovery of a fresh case in February, health experts told IRIN News.

“The number of confirmed polio cases has reached 474, as a new case was discovered last month in the governorate of Ibb, 150km south of the capital, Sana’a,” said Dr Hashim al-Zein, country representative for the World Health Organisation (WHO). While the new case “doesn’t signal any danger”, said al-Zein, he added that it would take a number of years before Yemen could be declared free from the disease.

The government, with WHO assistance, was expected to launch a new immunisation drive in April or May, targeting some four million children below the age of five. According to health workers, however, there has been a sea change in people’s attitudes recently as a result of awareness campaigns, which also involve progressive religious leaders.

HMC plans big expansion

Saudi-based Dr Sulaiman Al Habib Medical Center Group announced in Riyadh in April that the group is planning future projects worth around 1.2 billion Riyals (about US$320 million).

Dr Sulaiman Al Habib, chairman of the Group, said the company will launch 6 projects with a budget of 1.2 billion Riyals. Three of these projects will be in the city of Riyadh, one project in Al- Qassem, Saudi Arabia, and two projects in Dubai Healthcare City (DHCC) He said he planned to let the company go public following the completion of these projects in 2008.

He said the Dr Sulaiman Al Habib Medical Center (HMC) at DHCC is costing more the Dh100 million (US$27 million) to build and would be capable of treating around 800 patients daily with the most sophisticated equipment. It is expected to be operational by the middle of this year.

He also pointed out that the opening of Consultant Physicians in co-operation with the American University of Beirut Medical Centre (AUBMC) in DHCC would serve as the first bridge of its kind between the UAE and AUB. Al Habib said the Group will open a state-of-the-art IVF and fertility centre in Riyadh near HMC headquarters.

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