Prevention of Cardiovascular Diseases in the UAE’s Youth

In 2014, the World Health Organization report on the UAE indicated that 30% of mortality was the result of the presence of a cardiovascular disease. Moreover, all of the pressing adult risk factors identified regarding the nation’s public health were directly or indirectly related to the presence of CVDs. A considerable percentage of those affected belong to the ‘above 70 years old’ age group. However, the study dedicates a space to understanding premature mortality, indicating that “the probability of dying between ages 30 and 70 years from the 4 main NCDs [including CVDs] is 19%.” If we take a closer look at the prevalence of premature presence of CVDs, we can see that primarily heart diseases have been progressively affecting younger populations in the UAE. According to Dr. Ahmad Edris, a cardiologist at Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi, “The risk of having heart disease in the Emirati population is 10 years below the average age of patients in the UK or US.” Similar articles have been written by other newspapers local to the UAE and the Gulf in general, as more cases of young adults suffering heart diseases have been witnessed by several hospitals around the country.

During the last few years, the UAE has implemented a number of programs for the prevention of CVDs in general; mostly focusing on the identification of risk factors. As a matter of fact, the UAE has included the reduction of CVDs’ related deaths, diabetes, obesity and tobacco consumption in its Vision 2021 For Health program. Aside from leading a government-oriented initiative, the UAE has partnered up with private organizations to lead this project, as Dr. Sameh Anis pointed out in early 2017: “There is a need to reduce the burden of cardiovascular disease in the UAE. We are confident that this collaborative effort between Pfizer, Emirates Cardiac Society and the American College of Cardiology to address primary prevention is an important step to improve the health and well-being of individuals at risk of cardiovascular disease in the UAE.” The program that Dr. Anis refers to above focuses on education, launching a series of webinars and forums available to the general public. Programs such as this one have increasingly been targeting younger populations through the support of different institutions, especially schools. A good example is the Weqaya program itself, Abu Dhabi’s innovative cardiovascular screening program. Weqaya has joined other governmental institutions to work with schools in developing healthy standards regarding student dients and physical activities. While Weqaya operates only in Abu Dhabi, the problem has been addressed in other emirates, with the help of regional health institutions such as the Dubai Health Authority and the Ministry of Education.

Lastly, recent policies intend to tackle not only the result of a lifestyle-associated heart condition, but are also working on identifying congenital heart diseases in newborn babies. This initiative has the purpose of starting the necessary treatment at an early stage to avoid future health complications.