The UAE Ministry of Health has stated that over half of all deaths in the UAE are the result of four oft-occurring issues: cardiovascular disease, diabetes, road traffic accidents, and congenital abnormalities. A survey from the Emirates Cardiac Society showed that almost 9 in 10 Emiratis are at risk of heart disease, with one in three unaware of that fact.

The proliferation of cardiac disease among the UAE population has become so severe that it accounts for 30% of resident deaths, while the number of cases in young people (under 40) is also growing. The 2021 Vision has the ambition to reduce lifestyle related illness, and meet the goal of 158.2 deaths per 100,000 stemming from cardiovascular disease, down from the 2012 figure of 297.6

Al Qasimi Hospital is positioned now as the leading hospital regarding cardiovascular healthcare in the Emirate, certainly within the public sector. This position has been forged as the Sharjah government has looked to rationalize its healthcare provision, encouraging specialism within institutions. Those suffering from diabetes can visit one site, while those who need family and pediatric care can visit another. Resources are not limited, in spite of a small decrease in the federal budget, and this streamlining of services and development of specific sites to deliver quality care counters the previous policy of all healthcare facilities trying to be everything to all.

With Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi providing first-class cardiac care for the capital, it is necessary for Sharjah and the Northern Emirates to develop their own counterpart, particularly for Sharjah. The Emirate is establishing the medical free zone and center for excellence in Health Care City to position itself as a healthcare hub.
Examples of pursuit of excellence can be seen at Al Qasimi Hospital, and its newly enhanced cath lab, which recently became one of 10 institutions globally to implement a bioresorbable scaffold. The magnesium-based absorbable surgical structure performs the temporary function of revascularization, and is absorbed by the body within 6-12 months. Essentially the structure will maintain the passage for blood to flow through to re-supply the appropriate body part of organ for a long enough period in order to allow the patient to recover. This removes the issue of having a second surgery to remove any temporary structure, while the structure, made from 95% magnesium, replaces other polymer-based structures.

3D mapping has also come into practice in Sharjah, helping surgeons identify the cause of cardiac arrhythmias and abnormal heart rhythms. The non-invasive procedure allows for a more accurate diagnosis and subsequent treatment. The device allows doctors to view the electrical activity of the heart in 3D with a color-coded display in real time.

The development and implementation of new technologies is a crucial aspect of developing premium healthcare, and has been navigated even as the UAE government announced a small budget cut of 1.1% in October 2015. However, the road to a sustainable healthcare sector means generating tangible change through prevention measures and stimulating a change in lifestyle and attitudes. Al Qasimi, again spearheading the Emirate's drive for quality heartcare, outlaid pop up screening stalls in malls throughout Sharjah. The initiative has travelled through the Northern Emirates and, across the summer months of 2016, screened 3,685 women. This included blood pressure tests and checking blood-sugar levels.

This epitomizes the ministry's new direction, which received a rebrand earlier in 2016 and is now dubbed the Ministry of Health and Prevention. In the coming years, Sharjah. and the UAE more broadly, will focus not just on treatment, but on prevention.

The ministry has a large workload ahead of it. When speaking to HE Abdulla Ali Al Mahyan, Chairman of the Sharjah Health Authority, he put the challenge into perspective for us: “With the growing population of Sharjah and the adjoining Emirates, which is expected to reach 2.7 million by 2025, there is an acute need for more healthcare facilities and the overall healthcare industry is expected to grow considerably."