The United Arab Emirates (UAE) is in Bloomberg’s 2014 Top 10 Most Efficient Healthcare Systems in the world, beating the UK on tenth, and Switzerland on fifteenth place. It also takes the title as one of the fastest growing healthcare markets in the Middle East. The World Health Organisation (WHO) has rated another Gulf Corporation Council (GCC) state, Oman as having one of the best healthcare systems in the world, ranking it first in efficiency among 191 national healthcare systems.
Similar to its counterparts, the GCC region is managing a number of challenges in the field of healthcare, from an evolving demography and increasing expectations to a prevalence of chronic and life-style related diseases. A leading international accountancy firm estimate that to overcome these challenges, healthcare spending in the GCC region will require a 400% increase to today’s spending. Acknowledging these challenges serves only to further champion the efforts by GCC governments to deliver healthcare in sustainable and innovative ways.
With support from the global community, UAE has successfully developed a modern and sustainable healthcare system capable of providing excellent care to its 9.3 million people. His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, launched a seven year UAE National Agenda, that sought to address six national priorities, two of which being ‘world class healthcare’ and ‘sustainable environment and infrastructure’. Innovatively, the country acts on these two priorities simultaneously through initiatives such as; the Green Economy Project – a broad strategy that encourages newly built health infrastructure to have a minimal carbon footprint, and the Smart City Project – which provides logistical solutions through the provision of healthcare apps and mobile clinics.
In 50 years, Oman’s progressive approach to sustainable healthcare transformation has seen the number of hospitals rise from two to 60, and the number of physicians from 13 to over 5000, with spending at only 2.8% GDP. This monumental increase in resources is facilitating the transition to a more sustainable preventative healthcare model, evidenced by the rolling out of several national and local level strategies. For example, a school health strategy has recognised over 200 public schools as centres of health promotion, providing them with the necessary training and resources to inform pupils and families of the benefits of good nutrition and exercise.
A national community based initiative, driven by over 4000 male and female volunteers, has stimulated the organisation of ‘healthy city and village’ projects which serve as an intermediary between healthcare centres and the community. The outcome of such strategies has been to relocate ownership and responsibility of health onto the individual, freeing up resources elsewhere in the system.
UAE’s and Oman’s advancing healthcare systems demonstrate a recognition of both governments to pro actively tackle current and future challenges in relation to sustainable healthcare transformation. They provide an ambitious and yet realistic benchmark for other countries to follow suit in light of ongoing health concerns of the global population.
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