HEALTHY MINDS, HEALTHY BODIES

UAE, Dubai 2015 | HEALTH | FOCUS: MEDICAL RESEARCH

Further development of the healthcare sector is vital for Dubai's ambition of becoming a leading health service provider and research center.

Dubai has been busy overhauling its healthcare facilities to redirect the outflow of residents seeking medical treatment and capture part of the medical tourism market travelling to Asia as part of plans to become a major medical tourism hub. Last year, Dubai set an ambitious target to attract 500,000 medical tourists by 2020. Similarly, Dubai's leadership has also recognized a fundamental opportunity in the health sector to further develop the field of medical research. In recognition of this, local players, NGOs, and educational institutions are developing projects and initiatives to facilitate medical services, research, and innovation in Dubai.
At the end of March 2015, Prime Minister and Dubai ruler HH Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum formally launched Phase II of Dubai Healthcare City. The project will be carried out over 22 million sqft at a cost of AED3 billion to AED5 billion. Almost 25% of the new phase will consist of medical and healthcare services, while another 25% will be dedicated to hospitality and retail, along with a focus on education. Approximately 35km has been allocated for pedestrian crossings and bicycle and jogging tracks to ensure the availability of a healthy environment for daily activities and sports. Phase II will also include the Nashami project that will stretch over a space of 2.4 million sqft with the capacity to receive 20,000 people. It will include retail stores, hospitality, and leisure facilities, as well as 3.3 million sqf of rehabilitation facilities that will overlook the waterfront. With this, Dubai Healthcare City has reaffirmed its commitment to continually develop its capacity for hosting top-tier healthcare providers.

Non-profit organizations like the Al Jalila Foundation are also answering the call to develop medical research locally. The Al Jalila Foundation is a global philanthropic organization dedicated to transforming lives through medical education and research founded by HH Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum. The purpose of the foundation is to position Dubai and the UAE at the forefront of medical innovation. The AED200 million Al Jalila Foundation Research Centre is set to be completed by the end of 2016 and will play a significant role in putting the UAE on the map of medical innovation, as it will be the first independent, multi-disciplinary medical research center in the UAE.

Harvard Medical School (HMS) and Dubai Healthcare City Authority (DHCC) have jointly announced the opening of the Harvard Medical School Centre for Global Health Delivery, the world's first center of its kind to be based at the Mohammad Bin Rashid Academic Medical Centre at DHCC. The new center will allow HMS, working with researchers and care providers from the health authorities in the UAE, to stimulate research and education focused on improving the delivery of high-quality healthcare. Using innovative and multidisciplinary approaches, the center will study ways to improve outcomes for patients undergoing surgery and for patients receiving care for diabetes and obesity, infectious diseases such as tuberculosis and hepatitis C, and mental health disorders. With an undisclosed amount of funding for the center to be provided by the Dubai Harvard Foundation for Medical Research over the next four years, this center aims to turn Dubai into a global hub for scientific and policy discussions related to healthcare delivery. Eventually, the center will establish academic best practices for research into tuberculosis and hepatitis C and mental illnesses and other areas that would help scholars come together and share a platform that would not just benefit the GCC and MENA region, but create an international pool of academic research.

The opportunities for development in the healthcare sector in Dubai are vast. Major developments in the sector including Dubai Healh Care City's Phase II expansion will continue to create a hospitable environment for healthcare investors, while Al Jalila Foundation and Harvard Medical School are committing to further medical research innovation.