LIVE LONG & PROSPER

Abu Dhabi 2017 | HEALTH | INTERVIEW

TBY talks to Abdul Rahman Bin Mohammed Al Owais, Minister of Health & Prevention, on the main developments and achievements, tackling the key health concerns, and smart applications.

Abdul Rahman Bin Mohammed Al Owais
BIOGRAPHY
Abdul Rahman Bin Mohammed Al Owais is the Minister of Health in the UAE. A graduate of the United Arab Emirates University, Al Owais attained a bachelor's degree in accounting and information. He then became the Minister of Culture, Youth and Community Development in 2006. Thereafter, Al Owais was appointed as Acting Minister of Health in 2011 and served until 2013. In 2013, he was appointed as Minister of Health.

What have been the ministry's main developments and achievements over the past year?

To ensure the highest levels of healthcare, the Minister of Health & Prevention has set up health centers staffed by professional family doctors. The ministry has sought to improve the capabilities of these centers and now has a total of 77 centers in the Emirate. Over the past few years, the medical staff have expanded their services to cover the various needs of the community. In primary healthcare, there have been successes in many programs in areas such as periodic examination, pre-marriage counselling, mental health, health promotion, and continuing medical education. Primary care has been at the forefront of our strategies for the development of comprehensive health programs, the most important of which is the early detection programs for the prevention of genetic disease, including neonatal diseases. This program will help us to establish a national record of congenital malformations and genetic diseases in the UAE. The aim of this program is to protect children from mental and physical disabilities, and to reduce the number of deaths. The program was established in 1999 and succeeded in detecting many of these distortions. In international accreditations, the percentage of international funds for our health centers has increased, and the Joint International Accreditation Committee is continuing to cover the Ministry of Health & Prevention's centers until 2021.

Statistically, cardiac and chronic diseases pose the biggest threat to life in the UAE. How is the ministry tackling these issues?

Our leadership is committed to addressing this as the biggest cause of death in the Emirates. Our centers and clinics, as well as our partners in the public and private health sectors, have developed an advanced strategy to address non-communicable diseases such as diabetes and heart diseases as well as risk factors such as obesity. We have carried out several awareness campaigns to the community on the main risk factors, including programs for healthy hearts and the benefits of physical exercies, as well as the danger of tobacco. These programs have raised awareness in different parts of the country and within public and private education institutions.

How will Health Mirror transform the approach of patients toward health services and what impact do you expect this new technology have on the sector as a whole?

The Health Mirror supports the government's vision of implementing a high-quality health system, and improves disease prevention and mortality reduction for chronic and non-communicable diseases such as diabetes, heart disease, and high blood-pressure. This smart sensor will allow patients to learn their weight, height, BMI, and even the weather forecast simply by standing in front of the mirror. The smart mirror will be connected to a medical filing system, which allows the patient to view his or her electronic medical file, book appointments, and communicate with a doctor. This is an innovative way for patients to access the necessary healthcare from their own home, and allows doctors to monitor the condition of their patients quickly and accurately.

Smart applications and digital products have been some of the most interesting introductions from the ministry in recent months. How have these features helped you reach a wider audience?

The Ministry of Health & Prevention is keen to offer a range of e-services and smartphone applications as part of its ambitions to become a smart service. This is based on the vision of HH Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, to ensure access to government services around the clock, and to meet the needs and expectations of citizens via the adoption of services on smart devices. The ministry seeks to spread knowledge about new and innovative electronic services among the customers and employees, to reach a wider audience through a variety of media including its website, social media, and local newspapers. The latest developments in smart services include the Smart Patient Portal, telemedicine, the unified medical file, the Happiness Index , and our smart pharmacy program.