Health Services 

Introduction 
Preventive Medicine 
Fighting Epidemic Diseases
Fighting Malaria
Expanded Immunization Programme
Polio Eradication Programme
Maternity and Child Care
School Health
Health Education

No-Smoking Programme 
Health Conferences
Infrastructure
Telemedicine 
Information Technology
Pharmaceutical Services 
Training 
Privatization of Health Care
Award 

for more information, visit Ministry of Health Site

Introduction 

The UAE has a comprehensive, government-funded health service and a developing private health sector. Substantial government investment has enabled the UAE to make major progress in health care, and the country is now ranked 43rd out of 174 industrial and developing countries in the latest UN Human Development Report. Child mortality rates are 9 per 1000, comparable to most developing countries, while preventive medicine campaigns have had a major impact on life expectancy, now 76 years for women and 74 years for men. Endemic diseases have been eradicated. The focus of a network of Government primary health care centers is maternal and child welfare, school health and health education. The public hospitals offer specialized services, including telemedicine links with major hospitals abroad and state-of-the art surgery. The health care infrastructure is upgraded regularly, with a central data base project being prepared. There are plans to double bed capacity in public hospitals over the next ten years. The Government finances 81 per cent of the cost of health care, but several initiatives towards privatization have been launched recently.

Since its inception the UAE has seen remarkable progress in health care. Over the past 28 years government health strategies have paid special attention to the welfare of UAE citizens who are considered to be the country’s major resource and the prime target of all national development. To this end comprehensive health programmes have been adopted to meet the needs of UAE society, compatible with global objectives of achieving health for all. Currently the UAE has a comprehensive,  government-funded health service and a developing private health sector. This progress is clearly reflected in the positive changes in health statistics which indicate that the UAE has taken its place among the developed nations of the world. In fact the latest United Nations Human Development Report released in July 1999 ranked the UAE fort y - third out of 174 industrial and developing countries, up five places from the previous year. The UAE is also listed as the fourth most developed Arab state The Human Development Index (HDI), on which the report is based, measures overall achievements in a country in three basic areas of human development: life expectancy, education and general standard of living. Preventive medicine campaigns, which have been launched to combat and control more than 36 infectious diseases in the UAE, have had a major impact on life expectancy and constitute a key element of health care strategy.

Preventive Medicine 

Nine preventive medicine centers have been established throughout the country in a major move to widen immunization, health scanning, public awareness, research and educational programmes. As a result of these measures, as well as broader access to general health services and sanitation the infant mortality rate has dropped to less than 9 per 1,000 in 1998 and under fives mortality to about 2.23 per 100,000. The UAE now ranks second among developing countries which have achieved the fastest progress in reducing mortality among children below five years of age. The mortality rate among mothers has also declined dramatically to 1 per 100,000 newborn babies. In 1998 figures showed the decline of tetanus to almost 1 per 1,000 infants while the incidence of  diphtheria was actually nil. Among the most important preventive medicine strategies a re those briefly described below.

Fighting epidemic Diseases 

This programme is aimed at protecting the country from introduced epidemic diseases, such as pulmonary tuberculosis, AIDS, salmonella, intestinal worms, hepatitis (B) and leprosy. Expatriates are not issued with residence visas unless given a clean bill of health by the relevant medical authorities. Fighting AIDs A special preventive programme to combat AIDs has been adopted since September 1984. AIDs tests are carried out in 16 laboratories throughout the country with about 5 million tests being conducted between 1985 and early 1999. The programme has been very successful in preventing the spread of AIDS.

Fighting Malaria 

A central administrative unit set up in Sharjah in 1972 to combat malaria has succeeded in reducing the disease spread rate to less than 1 per cent of the registered cases up to early 1999. More than 58,000 people were tested during 1998, of which 2,700 were carriers. As in the previous years, 99 per cent of positive cases came from abroad.

Expanded Immunisataion Programme 

Established in 1981 the programme to eradicate childhood communicable diseases, targeting children under five, started with immunization against tuberculosis, measles, diphtheria, polio, whooping cough and tetanus. In 1986 measles, mumps and rubella vaccines we re added to the list, followed by hepatitis B in 1991, and hemophilic influenza B (HIB) in March 1999. As a result of the programme, cases of measles dropped to less than 20 per 1,000 in 1998. A massive vaccination programme, targeting the over-sixes, is under way with the objective of making the UAE measles-free by the year 2002.Three other vaccines have also been added to the immunization programme, namely vaccines against meningitis, cholera and yellow fever, the latter for those leaving the country on holidays or business.

Polio Eradication Programme

The Ministry of Health has completed four anti-polio vaccination programmes, covering 250,000 patients annually and using about 1 million vaccines. The strategy has been a total success and the country has not had a reported case of polio since early 1993. The immunization programme against polio covered all children and students from the age of 9 months to 18 years (i.e. 750,000 from October 1998 to April 1999).

Maternity and Child Care 

Nine specialized centers, 95 clinics, four specialized maternity hospitals and 14 general hospitals provide medical services to women and children throughout the country and more than 97 per cent of births now take place in hospitals. This has helped greatly in reducing newborn mortality rates to 1 per 100,000 births, an achievement matching that of developed countries. Ninety-five per cent of pregnancies are checked regularly at the maternity, child care and medical centers. Post-natal services include checking infant growth, immunization, fighting hereditary diseases, early detection of cancer and encouraging breast feeding.

School Health 

The UAE is a regional pioneer with regard to school health. The school health services commenced in 1971 with only four physicians, two dentists and 30 nurses providing medical services to about 40,139 students in 129 schools. In 1986 the number of physicians rose to 83 with 14 dentists and 319 nurses. In 1996, with the expansion in  school health services, the number rose to 87 physicians, 22 dentists and 365 nurses  providing services to 295,000 students. T h e re are also plans to extend school services to private schools, which accommodate 195,000 students in 388 schools. During the academic year 1997–98 the number of students visiting school health clinics reached 250,000.

Health Education 

The Ministry of Health has paid special attention to health education as an effective tool to alter those forms of behavior that might have a negative impact on the safety and health of individuals and society at large. To this end, it has established a central health education department with branches in all medical zones. Within the framework of the Ministry’s training programme, eight graduate citizens were sent abroad for post graduate studies in health education. This was complemented by the organization of 15 general training courses and 10 specialized courses attended by more than 750 trainees. More than 600 students participated in health education training courses during the summer vacation.

No-Smoking Programme 

One of the prominent programmes in the field of health awareness is the no-smoking campaign which includes the issuing of legislation to regulate the tobacco trade. A special committee was formed for this purpose and it has already prepared an anti-smoking draft law which will be submitted to the competent authorities for approval. A key element of the campaign is the establishment of Quit Smoking units at the departments of preventive medicine in each of the nine medical districts throughout the country. The aim is to reduce the prevalence of smoking and associated illness and death and to encourage people to adopt a healthier lifestyle as well as to support smoke-free policies. Initially, a Quit Smoking unit was established in October 1998 in the Abu Dhabi Preventive Health Department providing assistance to 100 people monthly.  Sharjah’s anti-smoking clinic was scheduled to commence operations in September 1999. The units, which will be provided with all necessary personnel, equipment and auxiliary materials, will target all smokers in the community who are willing to quit smoking. There will be a particular emphasis on the prevention of smoking in adolescents. Strategies for the units will include clinical smoking cessation techniques which will be used through group counseling sessions, as well as nicotine replacement therapy. The UAE actively participated in the Gulf No Tobacco Week in October 1998 as agreed by the Gulf Anti-Smoking Committee. The Ministry of Health has also launched a nationwide study of smoking habits and attitudes in the country in cooperation with the Ministry of Planning which will cover 1,500 UAE national households. Research is  under way on whether to include lessons on the dangers of smoking in the school curriculum, and to ban smoking in public places. As a further disincentive, the UAE raised import taxes on cigarettes to 70 per cent, with plans to further increase it over the next few years, as part of the GCC health plan to curb the smoking habit in the region.

Health Conferences 

The Health Education Department has organized several conferences, seminars and training courses on cancer, nutrition and chronic diseases, among other topics. The first Gulf conference on health and awareness held in Abu Dhabi in 1997, was attended by a  number of distinguished experts from the Gulf countries and abroad. Its recommendations have helped significantly in the development of health awareness in the Gulf region.

Infrastructure

Health care infrastructure has kept pace with other health care developments over the past 28 years to ensure that adequate services are provided in the Emirates. For example, the number of government hospitals has risen to 30, with 4,681 beds, compared with only seven hospitals and 700 beds in 1971. The number of physicians has also risen to 1,535 and nursing staff to 4,664. These hospitals are furnished with the latest medical equipment.

Specialized treatment centers, such as open heart surgery and transplant units, have also mushroomed throughout the country: the total number of operations in the various specializations rose to 66,000 in 1998. Al Mafraq Hospital open heart unit performed some 298 open heart operations in 1998, 106 of which were performed on children. In addition there are now 67 dialysis machines distributed in six centers nationwide, used by 272 patients. Diagnostic services have also improved and the Ministry of Health has provided its laboratories with sophisticated equipment to keep abreast of the latest developments in conducting a wide range of tests. It also introduced international standards in the fields of virology and blood transfusions in 1997–98, in cooperation with Germany and also in the field of biochemistry, in cooperation with Saudi Arabia. In 1964 there was only one X-ray machine in Abu Dhabi emirate, operated by a team of six specialists and technicians. By 1981 a radiography department was established at the Ministry’s premises and all hospitals had made remarkable progress in radio-diagnostic services. In 1978 the first CT SCAN machine was installed at Al Jazeirah Hospital in Abu Dhabi and by 1998 radio-diagnostic services covered all medical zones.

Other specialized services operating across the country include specialized laboratories, such as the in-vitro fertilization laboratory in Tawam hospital in Al Ain: some 82 in-vitro deliveries have been successfully conducted in this department. Al Tawam is also the site of a major oncology treatment center which cooperates with other AGCC states. So far the center has received about 380 cases from outside the state for treatment at the center.

The Zayed complex for herbal research and alternative medicine has also been established in the Mafraq area. It utilizes advanced technology to conduct research into herbal medicine with the purpose of establishing an advanced pharmaceutical industry, wholly dependent on natural remedies.

New hospitals Developments in infrastructure are ongoing. The construction of 17 public hospitals including extensions to existing hospitals will add 1,800 beds in various medical disciplines, nearly doubling the bed capacity of public hospitals in the UAE over the next 10 years. Landmark projects already completed include Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Hospital for surgery and emergency cases in Abu Dhabi, a general hospital at Medinat Zayed in the Western Region, and the Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Hospital in Ajman. All have been provided with the latest in medical equipment. Primary health care centers An increased emphasis on the provision of primary health care throughout the country has seen the number of primary health care centers rise from 12 in 1971 to 98 by early 1999. In addition, as many as 10 new primary health care centers are scheduled to open in the Northern Emirates in 1999.

Telemedicine 

The UAE has always been eager to adopt the latest in medical technology and so a wide-ranging telemedicine service has opened at Al Mafraq Hospital to improve patient care and reduce the cost of foreign travel for patients. The system links Al Mafraq Hospital to the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota and enables the exchange of digitized data and high-resolution, diagnostic video images. Al Mafraq Hospital is also purchasing an electronic medical records system which will make it possible to establish physician-to-physician contact via the telemedicine link.

The telemedicine system will enable physicians at Al Mafraq Hospital to consult 1,600 physicians and scientists at the Mayo Clinic and its associates in Minnesota, Arizona and Florida. Consultations will initially focus on cardiovascular diseases, but the scope will quickly be broadened to cover microsurgery, orthopedics, dermatology, oncology and other disciplines. The Ma yo Clinic will also establish similar links with Al Jazeirah Hospital in Abu Dhabi and Tawam Hospital in Al Ain. The Ministry for Health also plans similar links at other hospitals including Al Qasimi Hospital in Sharjah, Al Baraha Hospital in Dubai and Al Ain Hospital.

Information Technology

Fully aware that information technology can be of major assistance in improving efficiency, the Ministry of Health is engaged in a project to develop a central database at its premises in Abu Dhabi linking all hospitals, health centers and medical zones in the country. In1999 Dh 120 million was spent on the project. The Ministry has also implemented a Dh 70 million plan for modernizing its computer network and a Dh 4 million project to replace medical equipment incompatible with the year 2000. It has also modernized medical registration services, particularly in Al Ain hospitals,  laboratory testing and administrative services at a cost of Dh 40 million. The Ministry also prepared a database on psychiatric services in all medical zones in preparation for developing these services.

Pharmaceutical Services 

Progress in other areas of health care is also reflected in the pharmaceutical services. In 1998 more than 5.2 million medicines were prescribed by 154 government pharmacies, employing 742 pharmacists and assistants compared with only nine pharmacists in 1973. The total number of pharmacies and stores administered by the Ministry of Health reached 683 in 1998, employing 1,294 pharmacists and assistants.

Training 

Developments in healthcare infrastructure necessitated the recruitment and training of health care professionals. As a result the total number of nursing staff increased from 1,900 in 1978 to 5,854 by the end of 1998, about 3 per cent of whom are UAE nationals. In line with the Ministry of Health’s efforts to improve nursing services a central department was established in 1992 to deal with nursing affairs. The number of nursing schools has risen to five in the past few years and a special strategy has been formulated to upgrade standards and improve services during the period 1994–2004.

The first class of national medical students has recently graduated from the Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences at UAE University and several public hospitals have obtained academic recognition from internationally-recognized scientific establishments such as the British Royal College of Internal Medicine and the Royal College of Surgeons in Glasgow.

Privatization of Health Care 

At present the UAE Government finances 81 per cent of the cost of health care. The federal Government and Abu Dhabi emirate have taken steps to begin the privatization of healthcare and several initiatives are taking place as a joint effort between the Ministry of Health and the UAE Offsets Group (UOG). As a first step, the offsets group is launching the Emirates Health Care Company to provide healthcare management, healthcare investments and healthcare consultancy services. Several other projects are planned including a day surgery center, sports rehabilitation facility and a diabetes and heart surgery center. The healthcare division has launched one project, Associates for Advanced Care (AAC), which recruits healthcare workers. On a wider national scale the subject of adequate healthcare insurance coverage will be addressed.

Award  

One of the most prominent aspects of cooperation between the UAE and the World Health Organization (WHO) is the UAE Health Award, created through the initiative of Sheikh Zayed. This award is presented annually at the World Health Assembly to international scientists and experts in recognition of their contribution in different fields of medicine. On the occasion of the fiftieth anniversary of the WHO, Sheikh Zayed was awarded a gold medal and certificate of appreciation, received on his behalf by the UAE ’s Permanent Representative to the UN, during the fiftieth session of the WHO Assembly in May 1998.


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