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Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 22 June 2018

Netherlands to collaborate with UAE on obesity healthcare solutions

From obesity and cancer treatment to genetics, the Dutch have been tackling health from a number of different digital angles

Dutch authorities are stepping up efforts to woo firms and their employees to cities such as Amsterdam after the UK leaves the EU.  AFP
Dutch authorities are stepping up efforts to woo firms and their employees to cities such as Amsterdam after the UK leaves the EU. AFP

Personalised medicine, medical devices, robotics and e-health are just some of the solutions to the healthcare issues of today and tomorrow that the Netherlands plans to export to the UAE.

From obesity and cancer treatment to genetics, the Dutch have been tackling health from a number of different digital angles from the city of Nijmegen, where Health Valley is located.

“There are a lot of changes in the healthcare sector and, more and more, there is attention on prevention and health instead of sick people and treatment,” said Chris Doomernik, Health Valley’s managing director.

“Attention for prevention is increasing and it’s a good development. We see in the healthcare sector that treatment and diagnostics are becoming more and more personalised and the voice of the patient is becoming louder.”

Healthcare has to be more tailored to patients’ needs and more comfortable. More services must be delivered and all these developments demand the need for innovation in health care. “We speed up innovation in health care to improve the sector and make it more accessible and payable,” Mr Doomernik said. “We want to encourage economic activity and growth.”

A few examples he gave include the Gable Gait and Balance Robot, a step and balance training for patients who have suffered a stroke. The robot helps them walk again and works on rehabilitation as it makes it less labour-intensive.

“You don’t have to work with two or three physiotherapists with one patient because this device gives them support,” Mr Doomernik said. “The Tessa robot activates people with dementia – it helps make them more independent of their healthcare workers so they can make a shopping list, play music or be supported in other ways.”

The lab-on-a-chip technology development by LioniX is used for developing new diagnostics in drugs for treatments such as for cancer therapy. The Habit Agency, an e-health company, also developed an app to change the lifestyle of patients, helping to teach them healthy habits as it communicates with their doctor.

The foundation is also working on personalised medicine, medical devices and robotics, e-health and the construction of cure and care homes – what they consider to be the solutions to healthcare issues of today and tomorrow.

“A care organisation for the disabled called Siza wants to build a new building for people to live at home using technology to stay as independent as they can,” Mr Doomernik said. “They’re convinced it’s useful for people to do as much self-management as possible without the use of healthcare providers.”

Medical experts believe people can experience a better quality of life when they stay at home instead of going to hospital.

A team from Health Valley met Fuzan Al Khalidi, director of healthcare strategy and policy at the Prime Minister’s Office in Dubai, in 2016, along with other care institutes. They discussed e-health solutions as companies are upgrading their systems.

“The UAE is one of the top 10 most obese countries [in the region], with 23 per cent of those aged 20 or over deemed overweight," said Dr Egar van Mil, pediatric-endocrinologist at the Obesity Lifestyle Intervention Centre at Jeroen Bosch Hospital. “Amsterdam is one a the few cities in the world able to lower their obesity rate.”

According to a report by the World Health Organisation that measures levels of obesity using the Body Mass Index (BMI), the UAE ranks seventh in the top 10 most obese countries in the Middle East.

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“We’re used to eating until we are full,” Dr van Mil said. “We know how to survive starvation but not the obesity epidemic.”

He works on cognitive behavioural and gene therapy to find ways to tackle the issue. “We are working on a therapy with Berlin now where we have an agent that is capable of stimulating the relatively deficient receptor that is the problem in this type of obesity,” he said. “It’s a breakthrough in terms of medical therapy for children with monogenetic obesity, but it’s a very small part of the field of obese patients.”

Changing the environment is also key. “Obesity is a normal reaction to an obesogenic environment,” Dr van Mil said. “We’re not capable of changing the environment – in the UAE, it’s so hard, but you have to learn how to live in it and be smarter than it.”

Health Valley

Founded in 2002 and set up as a foundation in 2006, Health Valley has been an innovation in healthcare for more than 10 years in Nijmegen, the Netherlands.
It serves as a place where companies, businesses, universities, healthcare providers and government agencies can collaborate, offering a platform where they can connect and work together on healthcare innovation.
Its partners work on technological innovation, new forms of diagnostics and other methods to make a difference in healthcare.
Its agency consists of eight people, four innovation managers and office managers, two communication advisers and one director. It gives innovation support to businesses and other parties in its network like a broker, connecting people with the right organisation to help them further