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Home » Sustainable innovation takes centre stage at Arab Health Exhibition in Dubai

Sustainable innovation takes centre stage at Arab Health Exhibition in Dubai

by Mohammad Ghazal

The 48th edition of Arab Health Exhibition brought together thousands from across the healthcare space to unveil cutting-edge innovations and share medical breakthroughs at the Dubai World Trade Centre.

HH Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, on Monday inaugurated the four-day exhibition, bringing sustainability to the forefront in line with the declared Year of Sustainability and the upcoming COP28 in the UAE.

The climate crisis is a health crisis

Highlighting the growing link between climate change and heath, experts hold the view that the climate crisis is the “greatest threat” to global public health, with wide-reaching impacts, including water-borne disease, heart disease, cancer and mental health complications.

Moreover, while climate change is already being experienced through direct health impacts, it is also affecting populations indirectly through altering ecosystems, climate change researchers say.

Dr Nairouz Bader, CEO Envision Partnership, told ESG Mena that understanding the threats climate change poses to human health is the initial step in working together to lessen risks and be prepared.

“In the Middle East, climatic factors known to affect human health include heat, water scarcity and air pollution. In addition, the epidemiology of vector-borne diseases (VBDs) and the health concerns of population shift are also inclined by climate change in this region,” she said.

Further, Bader cited WHO figures noting that between 2030 and 2050, climate change worldwide is expected to cause approximately 250,000 additional deaths per year from climate-sensitive diseases. However, more recent climate research argues this is a “conservative estimate”.

Climate change is already affecting health in numerous ways, she said, indicating the health risks from increasingly recurrent extreme weather events, such as heatwaves, storms and floods, the disruption of food systems, increases in diseases which can be transmitted to humans from animals, in addition to food, water and mental health issues.

Tackling health disparities

Climate change will undoubtedly exacerbate existing health disparities and increasingly impact populations globally via socioeconomic systems, poverty, and food, water and shelter scarcity. Just as climate change is set to disproportionately affect the MENA region, women and girls have also been identified as more vulnerable to climate change impacts than men, according to experts.

Ramy Koussa, Associate Vice President for MENAT at Organon, said that the healthcare company is striving to close the gender health gap.

“Our mission is to fundamentally empower women, whether that is by improving access to family planning, which remains one of our priorities, or by supporting innovation that advances women’s healthcare,” he said.

“As part of this work, we understand that crises such as COVID-19 or climate change impact women disproportionally, as does resource scarcity. That’s why Organon is committed to raising gender parity across healthcare, while ensuring that we take the necessary steps toward decarbonisation,” Koussa added.

He noted that a healthy planet is vital to helping women and girls “achieve their promise”, and healthy women are “vital to resilient societies”.

“Our goal is to drive more partnerships, raise greater awareness of the importance of women’s health and drive more innovation, so that we can create more sustainable healthcare systems for women, and more resilient societies for all,” he said.

Sustainability in healthcare

The health sector contributes significantly to global greenhouse gas emissions, and when it comes to energy savings and more sustainable operations, change across the healthcare supply chain is imperative.

On this point, Dr Nezar Bahabri, Internal Medicine and Infectious Diseases Consultant, explained the sustainability situation in Saudi Arabia and called for action.

“Sustainability in healthcare remains scarce in Saudi Arabia while some others have been considering shy CSR programmes mainly for JCI [joint-commission international] accreditation purposes,” he said.

As a result, Bahabri said there is a profound need for awareness and education to introduce the world’s best practices which, he said, would lead, in return, to a dialogue for implementation in the Saudi market.

“There have recently been some self-initiatives for sustainability measures from some healthcare providers, but much more is needed across the Kingdom. The optimum breakthrough would be a mandate from the Saudi Central Board For Accreditation Of Healthcare Institutions (CBAHI) to include sustainability and ESG criteria across Saudi healthcare providers with a gradual implementation process in conjunction with a Kingdom-wide educational awareness programme,” he added.

Digital transformation in healthcare

Digitalisation is a key trend in healthcare, pegged to improve health systems’ financial, social and environmental sustainability. Likewise, it has been identified as one of six key transformations required to meet the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.

In conversation with ESG Mena, Alexis Lecanuet, Accenture’s Regional Managing Director in the Middle East, shed light on the role digital transformation has in creating sustainable healthcare.

Lecanuet said the next major transformation the world will embark upon is “the programmable world, where control, customisation and automation will be enmeshed in the environment around us”. This, he said, will equip people with the unprecedented ability to command the world to meet their individual needs.

“Healthcare enterprises will build and deliver these experiences, as well as reinvent their own operations, for a new kind of world in which we can make physical spaces adaptable to cues or our needs while improving environmental sustainability,” he said.

“Our research indicates that a high-performing digital core is needed for healthcare enterprises to be prepared for the future, creating greater access, better experiences and improved outcomes,” said Lecanuet.

While the Metaverse is all about leveraging the immersive experience of the virtual world, healthcare businesses must also look into the fundamentals of data interoperability across their digital and physical environments, he noted.

“The industry must work towards ‘full stack’ programmability. This will require an enhanced foundational connected layer, industry-wide alliances, and digital twins to bridge the physical and virtual worlds while staying at the forefront of real-world technology and innovation to meet our new expectations for digital conveniences and environmental sustainability,” Lecanuet observed.

The Arab Health Exhibition witnessed a wide range of technological innovations presented, with the Metaverse and AI taking centre stage. The Dubai Health Authority also announced its value-based healthcare model, EJADAH, which will use AI technology for predictive healthcare analysis for early intervention and prevention of disease and disease complications. It outlined that it will apply its value-based healthcare model across 30 disease areas by 2025.

Additionally, the exhibition launched the Intelligent Health Pavilion in partnership with the Intelligent Health Association (IHA), which enabled attendees to experience live use cases of the latest advances in sustainable healthcare technology. The Department of Health also launched the Abu Dhabi Life Science Hub in the Metaverse.

Healthcare in the Year of Sustainability

The healthcare system is tasked with improving health, yet, it is currently a big part of the problem, as a significant contributor of emissions. However, events like the Arab Health Exhibition highlight the industry’s awareness of the need for change. Likewise, innovators and governments alike shared their intentions to prioritise sustainable healthcare practices, putting it at the forefront of their agendas.

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