The focus of Dubai’s health care sector is undergoing a major shift. Stronger emphasis is now placed on prevention rather than treatment of health problems. This new policy aims to meet the changing needs of the community and to prompt in an expanding health budget.
In December 2011, the Dubai Health Authority stated it would be stepping up efforts to raise public awareness of non-transmissible disorders. These are lifestyle illnesses such as diabetes, cardiovascular disease and obesity.
A series of reports issued last year by authorities stressed the extent to which lifestyles were eroding the health of locals. One statistic showed that 19% of Dubai’s residents exercised effectively to stay healthy, a figure that fell to 7% for men between the ages of 40 to 59. The lack of activity according to the study’s lead to weight gain and a higher risk of diabetes, heart attacks and strokes.
The increasing rate of those suffering from non-transmissible diseases clearly indicate a need of help. Any efforts to encourage individuals to adopt preventative measures, whether they increase awareness or the oftenness of regular check-ups are welcomed.
Best international practices and standards need to be employed to maximize cost efficiency of the health care system. In the long run, savings can outweigh the initial capital outlay.
The government authorities have introduced special health screening packages, offered at reduced costs, with the aim of encouraging residents to have a regular check-ups and have their health monitored before problems develop.
The diabetes package covers four visits to a doctor, blood and urine tests, and dental and eye check-ups for one year at a total cost of $400, around 25% less than the fee if each appointment and test was scheduled individually. Another of the packages caters directly to women’s health needs, providing two appointments with a doctor, one of which includes a complete blood test, a Pap smear and a mammogram for women over 40.
High cost of screening and lack of insurance cover for preventive health currently serves as a disincentive to people from having the necessary tests carried out and receiving advice about making better lifestyle choices.
Patients should be able to utilise services available at a reasonable price, for the sake of their health. Many people need a motivation to help them to cut habits in their life .
Last year, the Dubai Health Authority also signed a memorandum of understanding with the World Health Organisation (WHO) to establish a framework for cooperation to develop strategies, policies and action plans tackling priority health problems in the emirate and the rest of the U.A.E.
Under the agreement, the WHO will assist Dubai in formulating and implementing programmes for the prevention and control of NCDs, setting up a risk factors surveillance system, developing health promotion programmes, establishing capacity building for DHA staff and developing community participation initiatives.
The new schemes are hoped to have an impact, as it is estimated that spending on public health care in Dubai and the rest of the UAE will increase by 250% over the next 15 years, with the growing calls on the health budget mainly due to lifestyle-related illnesses. This would take the UAE’s total health care budget to some $33bn a year, with the allocation to Dubai representing a significant slice of this spending.
Currently in Dubai, total expenditure on health care spending represents only 2.7% of GDP, whereas the global average for developed economies is closer to 7% or 8%, according to David Hadley, the CEO of Emirates Healthcare. If Dubai and the UAE want to achieve real progress, they should begin incrementally increasing expenditure similar to that of a high-income country.
Another route to reducing costs and boosting efficiency is likely to be put in place soon, with Dubai looking to develop partnerships with the private sector to help ease the calls on government-funded services. The DHA is hoping that non-state health providers will meet more than half of the new demand, officials have said.
By trying to tackle Dubai’s health problems before they develop, through educational programmes, screening and the promotion of preventative measures, the government authorities will be able to rein in expenditure as well as improve the health of the emirate.