Leading genetics and cancer researchers honoured with King
Faisal International Prize

The King Faisal International Prize for Medicine was jointly awarded to Professor Han Grrit Brunner (Professor of Medical Genetics at the Radboud University, part of Nijmegen Medical Center) and Professor Joris Andre Veltman (Professor of Translational Genomics at Radboud University), both of whom are from the Netherlands, for their research into the clinical application of next generation genetics.

The King Faisal International Prize was inaugurated in 1979 to commemorate the late King Faisal�s commitment to humanitarian causes, and to recognize significant contributions made by the Muslim world to human progress. Prizes are awarded each year in five categories: Medicine, Science, Service to Islam, Islamic Studies, and Arabic Language and Literature.

Professor Veltman is a distinguished molecular geneticist who has been instrumental in the set-up, application and implementation of genomics approaches in medical genetics. Together with Professor Henry Bruner, (a distinguished molecular geneticist and a leader in the clinical delineation of a large number of rare genetic syndromes and the application of next generation sequencing technology in the clinic) he developed and experimentally validated the hypothesis that a major part of intellectual disability should be due to de novo gene mutations, given the severity, early onset and genetic heterogeneity of such form of disability. Professors Veltman and Bruner used a combination of genomic microarrays, exome and genomic sequencing approaches in their studies, and their de novo paradigm has since been validated in other neurocognitive phenotypes, autism, epileptic encephalopathies and schizophrenia. Their contribution thus represents one of the recent major breakthroughs in human genetics.

High mortality from unhealthy environment in Eastern Mediterranean Region

In 2012, an estimated 854,000 people died as a result of living or working in an unhealthy environment in the Eastern Mediterranean Region � nearly one in five of total deaths in this region, according to new estimates from the World Health Organization (WHO). Environmental risk factors, such as air, water and soil pollution, chemical exposures, climate change and ultraviolet radiation, contribute to more than 100 diseases and injuries.

The second edition of the report Preventing disease through healthy environments: A global assessment of burden of disease from environmental risks reveals that since the report was first published a decade ago, deaths due to noncommunicable diseases, linked primarily to air pollution and chemical exposures, are amounting annually to as much as 450,000 of these deaths in the Region. Accordingly, noncommunicable diseases, such as stroke, heart disease, cancers and chronic respiratory disease, now amount to more than half of the total deaths caused by unhealthy environments.

At the same time, deaths from infectious diseases, such as diarrhoea and malaria, often related to poor water, sanitation and waste management have declined. Increases in access to safe water and sanitation and decreases in households using solid fuels for cooking have been key contributors to this decline, alongside better access to immunization, insecticide-treated mosquito nets and essential medicines. Despite the decline, the burden of infectious diseases is still of major concern in many countries of the region including those affected by civil unrest and crises.

�Over one fifth of the burden of communicable diseases, noncommunicable diseases and injuries in our Region is attributable to environmental risks that can be modified,� said Dr Ala Alwan, WHO Regional Director for the Eastern Mediterranean. �With our Member States, we have developed a regional strategy on health and the environment to reduce those risks in our homes, cities and workplaces. National authorities in Member States need to start implementing this strategy in order to provide healthy environments to their population and reduce avoidable death and diseases.�

Environmental risks take their greatest tool on young children and older people, the report finds, with children under five and adults aged 50 to 75 years the most impacted. Lower respiratory infections and diarrhoeal diseases mostly impact children under five, while noncommunicable diseases and injuries impact older adults.

Looking across more than 100 disease and injury categories, the report finds that the vast majority of environmentallyrelated deaths are estimated to be due to cardiovascular diseases, such as stroke and ischaemic heart disease. heating and lighting would reduce acute respiratory infections, chronic respiratory diseases, cardiovascular diseases and burns. Increasing access to safe water and adequate sanitation and promoting handwashing would further reduce diarrheal diseases. Improving urban transit and urban planning, and building energy-efficient housing would reduce air pollutionrelated diseases and promote safe physical activity.

Preventing disease through healthy environments www.who.int/quantifying_ehimpacts/ publications/preventing-disease


Iraq MoH, WHO, partners prepare for next cholera outbreak

Following the declaration of the cholera epidemic in Iraq in September 2015 and in anticipation of a potential new outbreak, WHO, UNICEF and the Ministry of Health of Iraq, jointly with WASH and health cluster partners, held a �lessons learned� consultation meeting in late March to review lessons and best practices from the successful 2015 outbreak response. These consultations will help guide cholera contingency plans for 2016 and beyond.

Cholera outbreaks occur in Iraq about every three to five years and have a distinct seasonality that typically start in September and continue through December when cases naturally decline with a high probability of another outbreak the following spring. However, immediate and efficient response actions can reduce cases and save lives.

�The cholera outbreak response in 2015 put in place rapid lifesaving interventions that helped minimize the epidemic. We need to take stock of what was done, and use this opportunity to design a comprehensive preparedness and response plan for the next outbreak,� said WHO Acting Representative for Iraq, Altaf Musani. �WHO remains committed to support the Ministry of Health and health cluster partners with effective cholera prevention and control measures including pre-positioning stockpiles of essential medicines and medical supplies and capacity for laboratory testing. These best practices will be important to avert mortality and morbidity when cholera strikes again.�

The lessons learned consultation meeting focused on a number of key issues, including:

  • Building local capacities to scale up surveillance, case investigation and management, as well as cholera prevention and control measures
  • Strengthening laboratory capacities at central, governorate, and peripheral levels to ensure early detection and confirmation of the cholera
  • Enhancing collaborative activities between relevant ministries and agencies, with clear roles and accountabilities
  • Maintaining strong and regular communication with the health sector and applying an inter-sectorial approach for Cholera/Acute Watery Diarrhea (AWD) management.

�The Ministry of Health with the support of WHO, UNICEF, and WASH and health cluster partners is building a comprehensive cholera prevention and response program with high capacity to respond to and contain any future public health risks including a potential cholera outbreak in 2016,� said Dr Adila Hammoud Minister of Health of Iraq. �We are going to benefit from the successful collaborative efforts the ministry had with WHO and partners during the last cholera outbreak that spread to almost all Iraqi governorates.�

�UNICEF and partners, such as the WHO and MOH, reacted immediately when cholera was confirmed in Iraq in 2015, and within 48 hours of the announcement we began our joint response. Initial activities empowered communities to protect themselves by knowing how to avoid and treat cholera, while intensive water and sanitation programmes took away the cholera transmission routes. With these joint efforts, by December 2015, even with over 10 million people from all over the world converging in Karbala, and with over 3 million people internally displaced, the outbreak was over,� said Peter Hawkins, UNICEF Iraq Country Representative.

Cholera is endemic in Iraq, and the outbreak, officially declared in September 2015, resulted in 4,945 cases confirmed in 17 of the 18 governorates across Iraq. WHO and UNICEF supported the Ministry of Health and other partners to put in place immediate preventive and control measures that included targeting approximately 249,319 people with Oral Cholera Vaccine (OCV) in a 2-round immunization campaign for vulnerable populations in 62 refugee and internally displaced persons camps and collective centres throughout the country.

Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi performs new procedure for swallowing disorders

Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi recently performed the region�s first Peroral Endoscopic Myotomy (POEM) procedure. The procedure was performed as an alternative to open or laparoscopic surgery for a patient with achalasia, a swallowing disorder.

POEM is an endoscopic procedure used to treat a variety of swallowing disorders, most commonly achalasia, a condition where the esophagus is unable to push food into the stomach due to tightened muscles. Achalasia is a rare disease, affecting from 0.6 to 1.1 in 100,000 people. Common symptoms of achalasia include, but are not limited to, difficulty swallowing, regurgitation of undigested food, chest pain and heartburn. The entire POEM procedure is done using an endoscope, which the endoscopist uses to divide the esophageal muscles that cause swallowing problems. POEM is performed entirely through the mouth alone under general anesthesia, and takes between one to two hours to complete.

The patient, who has suffered from achalasia for more than 10 years, battled symptoms of frequent regurgitations and difficulty swallowing. He has recovered well and has seen an improvement in his swallowing, allowing him to return to his normal lifestyle within just a few days of the procedure.

Only a limited number of medical centers across the world, including US-basedCleveland Clinic, offer this less-invasive approach to treating swallowing disorders. It is a relatively new, minimally invasive treatment performed by highly skilled endoscopists, and offers patients the benefits of no incisions in the chest or abdomen, as well as reduced or no hospital stay following the procedure. Instead of having to travel abroad, patients in the region can now receive this treatment closer to home.

The procedure was performed by Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi�s Dr Mohammad Al Haddad, director of endoscopy, and Dr Kevin El-Hayek, staff physician, general surgery, and was proctored by Dr Matthew Kroh, director of surgical endoscopy at Cleveland Clinic in Ohio, US.

Ministers of health of UAE, Belgium meet

Abdul Rahman Mohammed Al Owais, the UAE Minister of Health and Prevention, met early April with Jo Vandeurzen, the Flemish Minister for Welfare, Public Health and Family, at the Ministry�s Office in Dubai to explore bilateral opportunities for cooperation in healthcare including exchange of expertise in the areas of continuing medical education, best medical practices, health information technology, and health communication strategies.

The Undersecretary Dr Mohammad Salim Al Olama, the Assistant Undersecretary for Hospitals Sector Dr Yousif Al Serkal, and the Belgian Ambassador to UAE, Dominique Minor were also present at the session.

The two parties explored possibilities of building alliances in the healthcare sector to improve the quality of services provided in the hospitals and health centers. They also discussed developing state-of-the-art research centers and medical laboratories with cutting-edge equipment and technology as well as embarking on physician exchange programs.

Sanofi appoints new head for region

Sanofi has appointed Jean-Paul Scheuer as Country Chair and General Manager, Rx, for Gulf Countries. Sanofi Gulf includes UAE, Kuwait, Qatar, Bahrain, Oman, and Yemen.

Commenting on his new position, Jean-Paul Scheuer said: �Sanofi has emerged as a strong healthcare leader in the region. Our efforts in the Gulf are directed towards meeting patients� needs in countries where we operate � through diverse product offerings and meaningful partnerships with health authorities. We are also playing a positive role in shaping the healthcare industry. I am honoured to lead the business at an exciting phase of growth while continuing the organization�s long standing legacy and commitment.�

Saudi primary health care facilities face shortage of doctors

Primary health care facilities are facing a severe shortage of doctors resulting in poor service delivery and forcing citizens to go to large hospitals, according to Abdulaziz bin Saeed, undersecretary for public health.

He was quoted in Arab News as saying that the ministry has put in place short, medium and long term plans to develop the primary care sector by recruiting competent staff. This includes deploying 50% of medical school graduates to these centres.

�One of the problems facing the ministry currently is that the majority of patients insist they must be treated at the most advanced medical centres even if their conditions do not require this,� he said.

He said there are 2,200 primary health centres in Saudi Arabia and the ministry planned to assign at least one consultant to each centre, particularly in family medicine, and child and maternity care.

New health facilities for Saudi  

Saudi Health Minister Khalid Al-Falih visited a new medical complex in Thuwal, near Jeddah earlier this year and remarked about future health facilities in the kingdom.

According to a report in Arab News, projects currently under way are the Jeddah Medical Tower for Childbirth and Children, with a 400-bed capacity; the Eye Medical Tower in Jeddah with a 200-bed capacity; Psychiatric Hospital in Jeddah with a capacity for 500 beds; Al- Jamum Hospital with a 100-bed capacityMakkah Hospital with a capacity for 500 beds; Women�s Hospital in Qunfudah with 200-bed capacity; Amal Mental Hospital in Taif with a 500-bed capacity; and Children�s Hospital in Taif with 300 beds.

The projects that are under study for construction are King Faisal Medical Tower in Makkah with 200 beds; Children�s Hospital in Makkah with 300 beds; Bil-Harith Hospital with 50 beds; Qunfudah Hospital with 50 beds; King Fahd Medical Tower in Makkah with 200 beds; Namira Hospital with 50 beds; South Qunfudah Hospital with 100 beds; Umm Al-Doom Hospital in Taif with 50 beds; Al-Laith Hospital with 100 beds; North Jeddah Hospital with 200 beds; King Abdul Aziz Medical Tower in Makkah; and King Faisal Hospital in Taif.

Princess Muna appointed UN High�]Level Commissioner on Health Employment  

HRH Princess Muna of Jordan has been appointed as a commissioner in the UN High�]Level Commission on Health Employment and Economic Growth, according to a report in the Jordan Times.

The newly established commission was formed by UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon in response to the UN General Assembly Resolution (A/70/L.32), which recognises that investing in new employment opportunities in the healthcare sector adds broader socioeconomic value to the economy and contributes to the implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, a Royal Court statement said.

Princess Muna has been named to take part in this commission, co-chaired by French President Francois Hollande and South African President Jacob Zuma, �gbased on her capacity as a world-renowned figure in the fields of global health and social development�h.

In Jordan, Princess Muna helped found the Princess Muna College of Nursing in 1962, and she is the founder of the Jordanian Nursing Council, which was established in 2002, as part of her early commitments to the provision of quality nursing and the advancement of nursing services, practice and education.


Date of upload: 15th Mar 2016

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