Living healthy in the UAE for years to come

Published December 2nd, 2009 - 09:00 GMT
As the country celebrates UAE National Day and honours all of the achievements of the last 38 years,  developing a world-class public health system has been a major milestone, and this year there is much to rejoice.  UAE Genetic Disease Association (UAEGDA)—the sole non-profit genetics organization in the UAE—is one example of the successful cooperation between local governments and the private sector to educate the nation on pressing health issues.   
Listed under Dubai's Islamic Affairs and Charitable Activities Department, UAEGDA’s main objective is to reduce the prevalence and impact of common genetic disorders such as Thalassemia through sponsoring nation-wide education and screening campaigns.  In 2009, the organization continued to expand their partnerships with corporate and educational institutions throughout the country.  Covering every corner of UAE, UAEGDA has worked with over 35 organizations in developing health education and screening campaigns.  In additions to these Universities and colleges, UAEGDA has also conducted such genetic screening programs for employees of several corporate sectors across the country. The screening for common inherited blood disorders has so for covered over 7500 individuals across the country.
 “In recognizing the monumental achievements of this great nation, we at UAEGDA are proud to support the government’s many initiatives in creating a healthier, more active UAE lifestyle,” comments H.E. Dr. Maryam Matar, Executive Director of UAEGDA.  “The UAE government has taken bold action this year in encouraging organizations like UAEGDA and other healthcare projects in the country, and the results have been incredible.” 
Considering the high prevalence of diabetes in the country, UAEGDA recently expanded its initiatives to include a nation-wide program to screen the population for diabetes.  The new tests have been introduced alongside the current examinations that UAEGDA already does for Thalassemia and other genetic disorders.  The prevalence of diabetes in the Middle East varies amongst age groups and countries, but averages around 30% region-wide.   
UAEGDA has also recently taken initiative to prevent new births of children with Neural Tube Defects (NTD). NTD is a defect that occurs during the very early stages of pregnancy which affects about 400,000 babies annually in the World.  The UAEGDA campaign that will be supported by folic acid supplementation is likely to reduce the incidence of NTD by 50% - 70%.
“Special emphasis is being increasingly focused on health education and awareness, especially for preventive medicine campaigns,” added Dr. Matar. “Such campaigns have a major impact on life expectancy and constitute a key element of the government’s health care strategy.”
Issues surrounding preventative medicine will be the focus of the first UAE Genetic & Biotechnology Conference, which is being held in coordination with UAEGDA, Zayed University and Yamaguchi University of Japan. This conference is planned at the Zayed University - Dubai Campus on December 21st.  The conference will feature discussions from 11 leading figures in genetics research. An audience of about 100 is expected to attend, including B.S. and M.S. students from Zayed University, HCT, Manipal University, and various other institutions across the UAE who now have programs in genetics and biotechnology.
“UAEGDA wanted to support an event in which local practitioners could come together to share their experiences and learn from one another. This year’s Genetic & Biotechnology Conference will be followed by a two-day DNA techniques workshop on December 23rd and 24th at the UAEGDA laboratory in Dubai Women’s College - Higher College of Technology in Dubai. Various techniques including the PCR will be demonstrated by world-renowned scientists from Yamaguchi University of Japan” commented Dr. Mohammed Naveed, Consultant Geneticist at UAEGDA.  Dr. Naveed has been working to identify and reduce the prevalence of genetic diseases in the UAE for many years, and will be one of the speakers at this year’s Genetic & Biotechnology Conference.

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