Students from universities across the UAE came together for the 2018 Public Health Think Tank to develop grassroots solutions to reduce the impact of cardiovascular diseases, specifically hypertension, in the UAE. Cardiovascular disease (CVD) is the leading cause of death in the UAE, above other health problems, or accidents and accounts for over two thirds of all death. Risk factors for CVD include hypertension, diabetes, smoking and hyperlipidemia to name a few. Recent studies have shown that the prevalence of hypertension in UAE is 29.2%, with awareness of less than 50%. Moreover, there are gaps in knowledge base due to sparse literature and absence of information for developing countries. These facts are concerning when considering the troubling effect of these risk factors in general wellbeing and quality of life.
PHTT assembled a diverse range of speakers to hep participants better understand the issue of cardiovascular diseases and to equip them with tools to design effective interventions. Dr. Cother Hajat, current Advisor to the Chief Health Officer at IBM Watson Health and previous Director of Global Health Strategy at The Vitality Institute and Advisor for the World Health Organization, delivered an informative presentation about approaches to tackling multiple chronic conditions. Dr. Khalid Malik, the Consultant Family Physician at the Health and Wellness Center in New York University Abu Dhabi, gave an interactive presentation introducing cardiovascular diseases, and medical explanations for the major risk factors concerning the issue. Dr. Afzalhussein Yusufali, the Chief cardiologist at Dubai Health Authority spoke in depth about hypertension in UAE referring to the various public health studies that have been conducted in the region such as the “Prospective Urban and Rural Epidemiology (PURE) study”, which investigated the associations between social, behavioral, genetic, and environmental factors and cardiovascular diseases in 17 countries and “Weqaya”, a population-wide cardiovascular screening program. Andrea Leinberger-Jabari, Assistant Director for Tobacco Research as part of the Public Health Research Center, conducted a workshop on designing impactful public health interventions. An immersive public speaking workshop was also delivered by Peter W. Dicce , J.D., M.Ed, is the Assistant Dean of Students & Director of Athletics at NYU Abu Dhabi. The workshop explored techniques and strategies to deliver an effective speech.
Nine teams at the conference came up with innovative proposals for interventions to tackle the issue of cardiovascular disease with a focus on hypertension. The proposals ranged from school-based peer to peer education program to branding to identify healthy food choices. The final proposals were presented to a panel of judges that included Dr. Cother Hajat, Dr. Khalid Malik, Andrea Leinberger-Jabari, Dr. Rahib Ali, Director of Public Health Research Center at NYU Abu Dhabi. The Tarabut health program, the winning intervention designed by team Fujairah is an educational initiative that seeks to improve the curriculum and the transparency of the health awareness program established in UAE community schools.