Interview: Haya Bint Al Hussein
How is policy being developed to address the changing demands of the Dubai population?
PRINCESS HAYA BINT AL HUSSEIN: The UAE’s reference point and benchmark for real progress is measured by the nation’s health care and education systems. We would like every one of our citizens to have access to appropriate health care in their time of need, and we would like this to be delivered locally – with local expertise, trained and mentored by the best in the world. However, we are realists, and therefore know that while this goal is achievable, it is going to take some time and a lot of effort to accomplish.
Our rapidly growing population, with changing demographics, is suffering from a host of new illnesses, resulting from our changing lifestyle habits and a genetic makeup that predisposes us to certain diseases, such as diabetes. Our policy starts with prevention, better education, promotion of a healthier lifestyle, immunisation, better maternal and child care, and smoking cessation. Early diagnosis through comprehensive screening programmes and the availability of affordable health care facilities for the less fortunate will ensure the best possible outcomes.
What needs to be done to boost health and wellness tourism in Dubai, particularly given the growing level of competition in this field?
PRINCESS HAYA: Demand for medical tourism has grown worldwide, with the global market showing a cumulative annual growth rate of 18%. There are numerous reasons for this growth, including the availability of advanced technologies, better standards of care for certain conditions, quicker access to treatment, more competitive costs and ease of access to countries with more comfortable climates.
The medical tourism market has, until recently, been dominated by the US, but with rising health care costs, the US is becoming less attractive. This has led to a widening gap in the market, and we believe that Dubai – with great facilities and temperate climate – is well placed to take advantage.
Since the approval of its medical tourism strategy in April 2014, Dubai has grown as a centre of excellence for medical tourism, attracting patients from around the globe, with numbers anticipated to reach well in excess of 500,000 by 2020. Available statistics show that in 2014, Dubai Healthcare City (DHCC) received 1.2m patients, 15% of whom were medical tourists. Of these medical tourists, 48% came from the GCC, with the remainder coming from Asia and Europe. The health care provided in Dubai is of a high standard, which often exceeds that delivered in many other GCC countries. These global factors, cutting-edge technologies and infrastructure investment in DHCC mean Dubai can become the medical tourist destination of choice.
Given the UAE’s shortage of doctors, what can be done to improve Dubai’s ability to attract sufficient talent, especially from Emirati nationals?
PRINCESS HAYA: We are working hard on weaning our young health care system off its dependency on existing international models by adapting those models to suit our own needs, while also having a system that is run by our own people. We also recognise the need to have a suitable environment for learning, one that facilitates knowledge transfer.
We are on track to provide these things at DHCC, with a strong focus on education and research. Mohammed Bin Rashid (MBR) University of Medicine and Health Sciences will receive its first intake of medical students in autumn 2016, while Al Jalila Foundation Research Centre, which will act as a hub for research in the region, will be completed in less than 12 months. In addition, MBR University Hospital will open its doors in 2020 as a specialised centre of excellence in health care. This will make it easier to attract and retain talent from all over the world.
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