While the Mers coronavirus has been the subject of a lot of media attention lately, it is not the only – nor, arguably, the most important – health issue in the region. And, while Mers is a subject of discussion at the Arab Health 2014 convention being held in Dubai until Thursday, it is by no means the only topic on the agenda. The conference, which gathers more than 500 international speakers and almost 4,000 exhibitors, will cover a wide range of issues that are vitally important to the UAE and beyond.
To recognise the importance of the conference, now in its 39th year, it’s instructive to consider some of the challenges facing health professionals in this region. Polio has been eradicated in many countries, most recently in India, but it remains a threat in Pakistan, Afghanistan and now Syria; smoking-related respiratory diseases are on the rise across the Middle East, and obesity and cardiac diseases are rife.
Diabetes is the topic of a side conference held yesterday and continuing today, with delegates discussing the high incidence of the condition – which affects about 18 per cent of the UAE population – and strategies for its treatment. Also to be discussed will be the treatment of cardiovascular disease, which is responsible for 45 per cent of deaths in the Middle East; means of sharing medical data across borders to deal with communicable diseases; and preparedness for a potential pandemic, be it Mers or some other virus.
It is appropriate that the UAE is taking a leading role in hosting a convention of this scope and importance. The Vice President and Ruler of Dubai, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, has identified health as one of the national government’s key priorities, and has stressed the need for services in the UAE to match global best practices. This event also tallies with the national vision of building a knowledge economy.
While a medical conference may appear to be of little interest to the ordinary person, Arab Health 2014 should produce tangible benefits for everyone who lives in the region. This convergence of professionals from around the world will, of course, bring money into the Dubai economy, and the knowledge the delegates will share here will pay off in terms of awareness of current health issues and the provision of better treatments for patients.