Government support of health sector
Providing world-class healthcare is one of the six pillars of the UAE National Agenda in line with Vision 2021.
For the year 2016, the UAE Government had allocated 7.9 per cent of the budget amounting to approximately AED 3.83 billion for the health sector alone.
In 2017, the UAE Government allocated 8.6 per cent of the federal budget to the health sector, which is in addition to the significant spending by the local emirates. According to the Sustainable Economic Development Assessment (SEDA) scores from the Boston Consulting Group (BCG), healthcare standards in the UAE outperform regional and worldwide averages on multiple dimensions such as wellbeing and education.
Protection of public health
The UAE is keen to develop its preventative healthcare system. Its initiatives include:
- Free screening for early detection of breast cancer
Ministry of Health and Prevention (MoHaP) encourages all women in the UAE, nationals and residents to go for free screenings for the early detection of breast cancer.
Its recent campaign was launched in May 2017 until June 2017. Mobile clinics equipped with mammography technology were deployed in several shopping centres in Dubai and the Northern Emirates.
The campaign aimed to raise public awareness on the importance of early detection of breast cancer, diagnosis, treatment and rehabilitation.
- Prevention of non-communicable diseases
The UAE's Ministry of Health and Prevention developed eEtmenan app to facilitate in the prevention of non-communicable diseases.
The launch of eEtmenan falls in line with the Ministry's efforts to develop the national strategy to combat non-communicable diseases over the next five years (2017 – 2021), promote healthy lifestyles and curb related diseases.
In 2016, the Ministry of Health and Prevention launched the Health Heroes app which aims to provide children with new information that heightens their awareness on the importance of adopting a healthy lifestyle. The App is part of the federal government strategy to bring down childhood obesity rates and also one of the government initiatives to promote preventive health behavior among children in the UAE.
The Health Heroes app won the first place in the ‘Best Community Sport Initiative’ competition.
- Diabetes screening initiative
In line of the Ministry of Health and Prevention’s National Strategy for Fighting Diabetes 2009-2018, It has launched different initiatives aiming to reduce the prevalence of diabetes from 19.3 per cent to 16.28 per cent by 2021 by placing the patient at the centre of diabetes management.
Diabetes Screening and Professional Healthcare Education programme is one of the initiatives aimed at providing better medical care to diabetic patients.
The key objectives of the program include:
- screening of 10,000 high-risk individuals
- training 90 nurses based on the Johnson and Johnson Diabetes Institute (JJDI) curriculum.
25 doctors will attend the globally recognised JJDI program. The diabetes screening and education initiative will address critical areas of diabetes management such as maintaining healthy lifestyle for diabetes prevention, increasing rate of diagnosis and early detection and improved care with self-management programs.
To ensure protection from infectious diseases, MoHaP equips travel health clinics with vaccines against infectious diseases. The vaccines are also offered at preventative medical centres associated with the primary health care centres.
MoHaP keeps constant contact with the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention and World Health Organisation (WHO), to keep pace with the latest developments and global epidemics, take necessary precautions and notify travellers to avoid catching diseases.
- The Giving Clinics initiative
The one-year ‘Giving Clinics’ initiative which is in line with the declaration of 2017 as the‘Year of Giving,’is designed to provide free medical consultations to people in need in a non-discriminatory manner.
- Registration of medical substances and pharmaceutical products
MoHaP controls the registration of medical substances, pharmaceutical products, supplements and medical devices. The registration process involves strict procedures to ensure the safety of drugs and products for consumption. The process contributes towards maintaining the health and safety standards of patients and community members.
- Reporting harmful medicines
You can report fake or harmful drugs to MoHaP through its hotline 80011111.
- Engagement of people on health strategies
To ensure that the needs of citizens are met, MoHaP regularly launches consultations on this portal. These consultations aim to encourage the public to share their thoughts and suggestions on improving health services.
- The UAE’s partnerships with medical research centres
To provide cutting-edge healthcare services, the UAE has longstanding partnerships with research centres of excellence such as Imperial College London Diabetes Centre.
Learn more about Ministry of Health and Prevention's projects and initiatives.
As per 2014 statistics released by Federal Statistics and Competitive Authority, there were 79 hospitals, 10,165 physicians and 16,882 nurses in the private sector.
There were 36 hospitals, 6,504 physicians and 16,547 nurses in the government sector.
To provide better healthcare services and to ease access to health facilities, the UAE has opened healthcare cities. These are complexes having clinics of various specialties. Presently, there are three healthcare cities in the UAE. They are:
The UAE Government sends UAE nationals abroad for medical treatment if treatment is not available in the UAE.
In case of an emergency
In case of a medical emergency, you can get help by calling for the ambulance on 998 (from anywhere in the UAE). An air ambulance could be sent for the patient if needed.
In the emirate of Abu Dhabi, if there is a medical emergency for people with special needs, you can get help by sending an SMS to 5999. You are required to send information about the incident, location of the patient and a phone number on which the police can contact you.
The UAE's Ministry of Health and Prevention offers the 'Smart Patient' portal through which patients can view their health profiles and their upcoming appointments.
Health insurance for UAE nationals
Under the 'Thiqa' programme, Abu Dhabi Government provides full medical coverage for all UAE nationals living in Abu Dhabi. Citizens get a Thiqa card, through which they get comprehensive access to a large number of private and public healthcare providers registered within Daman's network. It also includes broader geographical coverage and extra health benefits.
In order to qualify for the Thiqa programme, UAE nationals living in Abu Dhabi who are 18 to 75 years old need to undergo the Weqaya screening run by the Department of Health - Abu Dhabi. The health check is done in order to identify cardiovascular risk factors, and may be waived only in exceptional cases.
Amendments to insurance programmes
The Department of Health in Abu Dhabi announced a number of amendments to health insurance programmes to both the 'Thiqa' plan and the Abu Dhabi Basic Plan. The amendments came into effect from 1 July 2016. They were designed to utilise the health insurance system in increasing overall efficiency across the sector to better meet current and future demands.
Saada is a health insurance programme for the citizens in the emirate of Dubai. It provides insurance coverage to citizens who do not currently benefit from any government health programme in the emirate of Dubai. The programme provides treatment through a large network of healthcare providers in the private sector and DHA healthcare centres. Citizens' Emirates ID card carries details of the Saada programme they are subscribed to.
Health insurance for resident expatriates
The extent of coverage for employers and their dependents is determined by the employee's salary, designation etc. The extent of coverage and type of policy/scheme would determine the cost of your medical services.
In the emirate of Abu Dhabi, employers and sponsors are responsible for the providing health insurance coverage for their employees and their families (1 spouse and 3 children under 18 years).
In the emirate of Dubai, employers are required to provide health insurance coverage for their employees. Sponsors are required to get insurance cover for their resident dependents.
There are several insurance companies in the UAE. Many also provide Islamic insurance (takaful). The website of Insurance Authority provides a list of registered insurance companies in the UAE.
Alternative medicine in the UAE
The UAE issues professional licence in the fields of Traditional, Complementary and Alternative Medicine (TCAM). Medical care can be acquired in the following streams:
- Chiropractic Medicine
- Naturopathy Medicine
- Osteopathic Medicine
- Therapeutic Massage
- Traditional Chinese Medicine
- Unani Medicine.
Patients' rights and responsibilities
The UAE Government guarantees the patients their rights and obligates them with responsibilities. Patients' rights and responsibilities are listed in the patient's charter of rights and responsibilities which are displayed at all clinics and hospitals. Patients can file complaints about improper service or malpractices to the respective health authorities. You can find related information on the websites of Department of Health - Abu Dhabi and Dubai Health Authority.
The UAE has a zero-tolerance policy for recreational use of drugs. Federal Law No. 14 of 1995 criminalises production, import, export, transport, buying, selling, possessing, storing of narcotic and psychotropic substances unless done so as part of supervised and regulated medical or scientific activities in accordance with the applicable laws. The UAE police has dedicated departments to deal with drugs' issues.
The UAE Federal Law No. 15 of 2009 regarding Tobacco Control forbids and penalises
- the sale of tobacco products to those under 18
- smoking in private cars when a child under the age of 12 is present
- smoking in houses of worship, educational institutions (such as universities and schools), health and sports facilities
- the sale of sweets which resemble tobacco products
- automatic vending equipment and devices for tobacco distribution inside the country
- tobacco advertisement
- smoking in closed public spaces
Shisha cafes, except those that have applied for a special licence, are banned from operating within 150 metres of residential areas, schools and mosques.
Dubai Municipality has banned smoking shisha in parks, beaches and all public recreational areas in Dubai. It has also prohibited the entry of pregnant women into shisha cafes; regardless of their intention to smoke.
In 2008, the Sharjah government had banned all kinds of smoking in public areas including smoking of shisha.
Now, the UAE's National Tobacco Control Committee intends to bring a complete ban on smoking in public areas.
Reducing consumption of cigarettes and tobacco products is one of the key performance indicators of the pillar of world-class healthcare of the UAE National Agenda. The UAE aims to reduce tobacco consumption from 21.6 per cent to 15.7 per cent among men and from 1.9 per cent to 1.66 per cent among women by the year 2021.
Special needs' health
Federal Law No. 29 of 2006 Concerning the Rights of People with Special Needs protects the rights of people with special needs and guarantees them the right to live with dignity.
Article 2 of the law provides: A person's special needs shall not be a reason to deprive him/her of their rights and services especially in welfare as well as social, economic, health, educational, professional, cultural and leisure services.
The Ministry of Health and Prevention issues Disability assessment report and accredits medical reports of people with special needs.
Senior people's health and rehabilitation
Ministry of Health and Prevention launched several initiatives for the benefit of senior people. One of these initiatives is to create a database to monitor the life expectancy of older persons in the country and expand the healthcare programmes and services especially home care services.
The ministry provides mobile clinic services in remote areas of Fujairah and Ras Al Khaimah. The services include medical care, rehabilitation, natural treatments, preventive measures, dental, optical, dermatological and diabetes treatments. The mobile clinic in Ras Al Khaimah does not offer dental treatments.
The UAE Government regularly announces campaigns under which it offers free vaccines to citizens and residents. In September 2016, citizens and residents between the ages of 19 and 34 were offered free MMR vaccines to prevent the spread of measles, mumps and rubella.
Innovation in health
Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum Fund to Finance Innovation
In November 2015, Sheikh Mohammed launched the Fund to Finance Innovation with a value of AED2 billion, which is a federal initiative designed to provide financing solutions for innovators across various sectors within the UAE. Priority will go to renewable energy, transport, education, health, technology, water and space sectors, and applicants must provide a business development plan to be eligible for funding. The fund is managed by Ministry of Finance in collaboration with local banks and various investment entities.
National Innovation Strategy
In 2014, H. H. Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum launched the National Innovation Strategy that aims to make the UAE among the most innovative nations in the world within seven years. The strategy targets seven sectors:
- renewable energy
The first phase includes 30 national initiatives to be completed within three years, which include:
- new legislation
- innovation incubators
- investment in specialised skills
- private-sector incentives
- international research partnerships
- an innovation drive within government.
The strategy will promote advanced technologies in healthcare services. It will stimulate the growth of the biotechnology and pharmaceutical industries while also working with strategic partners to support medical research.
UAE's contributions to fight diseases
The UAE provides healthcare services to many countries through local entities such as Noor Dubai and Pulse Dubai. As a result, thousands of people around the world have been cured of blindness, blood and heart ailments and many other diseases.
Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum Global Initiatives (MBGRI) combats the root causes of poverty and disease worldwide. Its programmes have assisted 40 million people in 99 countries by 2015. In the fight against the spread of disease, it has prevented and treated blindness for 23 million people and provided 81 million vaccines and medications in the past eight years. 3.6 million children in vulnerable countries were protected from intestinal worms which threaten their health and future.
According to the UAEInteract website, between 1971 and 2014, the UAE spent AED 2 billion on projects associated with children's health, education and relief efforts in Asia and Africa. Some of these programmes involved vaccinating children against polio and measles with a special focus on Pakistani and Afghanistani children.
Emirates Polio campaign
The Emirates Polio campaign for polio eradication, under the directives of H. H. Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed AI Nahyan, President of the UAE, supports healthcare programmes in Pakistan that bring epidemics under control and prevent and negate the health hazards on the children in the affected areas.
The effort is part of the UAE Government's 2013 pledge of AED 440 million for supporting global efforts to put the world over the finish line for polio eradication by 2018, with a focus on Pakistan, which has one of world's highest rates of polio infection.
Through the Emirates Polio campaign, the UAE provided 116,177,794 million polio vaccines from January 2014 to May 2016 to Pakistani children aged under five. The Emirates Polio campaign supports the Global Polio Eradication Initiative (GPEI) of WHO's General Assembly for eradicating polio by the end of 2018 and the Pakistani Government's National Emergency Action Plan to wipe out the polio virus.
In 2011, H. H. Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces and Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Bill Gates, American business magnate and philanthropist committed USD 100 million (USD 50 million each) for the purchase and delivery of vital vaccines to prevent diseases and save the lives of Afghani and Pakistani children.
In June 2017, H. H. Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan made a personal donation of USD 30 million to support global efforts to eradicate polio. The donation supports Global Polio Eradication Initiative (GPEI) activities such as vaccination and disease monitoring, which will protect more than 450 million children from polio each year.
His Highness’ contribution to the initiative is part of the UAE’s continued collaboration with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, which provides humanitarian and healthcare services to millions of people around the globe.
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Read more about the sustainable development goal 'Good health and well-being'.
Updated on 19 Jul 2020