x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 27 July 2017

Addresses in UAE will have positive impact on public health, experts say

Doctors say a proper address system will help them map disease trends in the UAE.

DUBAI // Where you live can affect your health, but without an address system doctors cannot make these connections. Now, with homes in Abu Dhabi to be given addresses in the next 30 months and a new push for the same in Dubai, the medical community may be able to begin geomedical studies.

Information on factors such as local heart-attack rates or the proximity of a toxic rubbish dump or motorway should always be included in medical notes, said Bill Davenhall, a leading authority in geomedicine, the study of climatic and environmental effects on health.

Conditions that are common in the region and may be influenced by environmental factors include diabetes, obesity and child asthma.

"In the US we've found if you build housing within 300ft of a large expressway you're going to have a lot of paediatric asthma problems," he said.  "More data will now be available in the UAE that is geographically relevant."

Mr Davenhall said: "They've started programmes to give everybody better addresses, and this has to do with fire prevention and policing, but it's also going to impact public health.

"All the doctors who see patients will obtain a residential address for each of them, so they'll know where the patients live.

"They'll start to analyse those records and say, 'Look at all the paediatric asthma admissions to our hospitals over the last year from people within this corridor alongside this busy highway'. Then they'll have data they can work with."

The region's first geomedicine project is being developed by Dubai's health-technology company MedicaIQ.

"We're in the process of developing a project here about and around geomedicine, and proposing that project to the Ministry of Health," said Kenneth Seymens, a partner in MedicaIQ.

"Your health is as much a function of the environment that you happen to be in as it is of the quality of the provider who is supplying healthcare services.

"If there is a cancer cluster that hasn't been identified because there is no geographical correlation being made to the cancer, then the ability of physicians treating patients who have presented with this cancer is marginalised and reduced.

"If there is a geo-relevant component in electronic medical records, for example, the co-ordinates for where you live, the ability of physicians to detect patterns and trends about a particular disease state is enhanced."

Mr Davenhall, who works for the geographic information company Esri in the United States, said geomedicine findings had urban planning and cost implications.

"In California, they decided to have a rule where you can't build a school closer than 300 yards to an expressway," he said.

"Those kinds of rules will flow out across the world as the research community collects and analyses more data."

csimpson@thenational.ae