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Arab Health Exhibition: Establishing a resilient healthcare system in MENA

With the world still recovering from the COVID-19 pandemic and the increasing health dangers posed by climate change, there has never been a greater need for a resilient healthcare system in the MENA region.

This year, the Arab Health Exhibition & Congress brings together over 4,000 companies exhibiting to more than 130,000 healthcare professionals from 163 countries. It is an opportunity for those within the industry to exhibit the latest innovations, and by bringing together regional and international policymakers, tech innovators and healthcare specialists, it also provides a platform to discuss the sector’s most salient issues.

Featuring nine CME-accredited conferences, the four-day congress will see a variety of presentations and lectures given by experts on everything from women’s healthcare to infectious diseases, with sustainability as a core theme.


Sustainability becomes a priority

Currently, the healthcare sector contributes approximately 4 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions. The MENA region is already battling against the health implications of pollution and climate change; the latter identified by a recent Lancet Countdown report as increasing the risk of food insecurity, infectious diseases, and heat-related illnesses. With such imminent danger, it is evident sustainability, and the environment must be at the heart of healthcare.

With sustainability a critical focus of this year’s Arab Health Exhibition, the event has various initiatives promoting circular economy principles and is powered by renewable energy. It has also witnessed sustainability-focused announcements, including EcoStruxure for Healthcare, a collaboration between Emirates Health Services, Schneider Electric and Microsoft aimed to boost sustainability and energy efficiency in the UAE’s healthcare sector.

Companies within the space are taking action to reduce emissions and drive towards sustainability, including health technology company Philips. Speaking to ESG Mena, Vincenzo Ventricelli, CEO of Philips Middle East, Turkey and Africa (META), commented that Philips is committed to making the world healthier and more sustainable through innovation. “We also believe in the power of partnerships to identify future-ready opportunities and solutions designed to make healthcare work better — including ones that may not be on the radar today, but are crucial for tomorrow. As we continue to innovate for our customers and for patients, we are working to minimise our impact on the planet by taking climate action, driving the transition to a circular economy, implementing EcoDesign in our products, and partnering with our suppliers to reduce their environmental footprint. In such a rapidly evolving world, while we solve immediate pressing needs, it is critical to create capacity and capabilities for tomorrow.”


Making health equity a reality

In MENA, inequities in access to healthcare services remain despite significant progress in recent decades. This applies to overall health status, too, especially regarding maternal and child health outcomes. Demographic shifts, including the region’s ageing population and the rise in chronic diseases, also present significant challenges to the healthcare sector. Moreover, further health reforms are required to close the gap and meet emerging health needs.

Movement Health 2030 is working in collaboration with various stakeholders in Jordan, the UAE and Iraq to address this. Elsewhere, the Health Sector Transformation Program was launched in 2021 to restructure the health sector in Saudi Arabia, with governments in other GCC countries making similar commitments. Oman Vision 2040, for example, has made the healthcare sector a national priority, as has the UAE’s Vision 2021 and the UAE Centennial 2071. That said, it is a different story in low and middle-income countries of the region, with health systems varying vastly with regard to quality, leading to fragmented healthcare delivery.

Speaking about some of the accessibility challenges in the Middle East, Malda Q Bashi, Executive Chairwoman, Tamara for Medical Facilities Management Healthcare, said: “Although it’s uncommon, by global practices, for insurance companies to interfere with the clinical judgement or treatment plans, some indirectly attempt to influence the process mainly based on cost containment.”

She added: “Even continuity of care is seldom being challenged due to the doctors hopping from one facility to the other and not all facilities have the same coverage and accessibility to patients.”


Innovation in healthcare technology

This year’s Arab Health highlights how the latest innovations, such as AI, wearable technology and portable point-of-care diagnostic devices, are revolutionising healthcare.

ESG Mena spoke with Patrick Quinlan, MD MHA, CEO, co-founder of Hippo Technologies Inc. and the CEO Emeritus of Ochsner Health, to discuss how virtual care can tackle some of the issues currently facing the healthcare sector. Quinlan explained Hippo offers medical technology “built by clinicians for clinicians” to improve the medical experience and meet the fundamental needs of patients, delivering proper access, convenience, accuracy and affordability.

Speaking about Hippo’s technological offerings, Quinlan said: “Our Clinician Extender Model goes beyond the current limitations of the “one to one encounter” and creates a flexible “one to many” to replicate the kind of care received at the great institutions. We cannot affordably build or train fast enough to meet current needs with current methods. Hippo creates a better model and builds the workforce to bring patient care to when, where and how it is needed. “

Quinlan explained that team-based, collaborative care is “the hallmark of great medical care”, and by enabling a “polyclinic in your pocket” without regard to location, this paves the way to a new era of affordable access that “gets it right, first time every time”. “We can treat and train with every encounter to expand and improve the workforce in any patient encounter-hospital, clinic, home, work or ambulance. We can make what exists better and solve many of the seemingly intractable problems of healthcare today,” he said.

Meanwhile, Ventricelli stressed the role of partnerships in transforming healthcare: “We know that health technology solutions have great potential to improve patient outcomes and improve care delivery. If these solutions are underpinned by long lasting expert partnerships, co-development of technologies, collaboration between all stakeholders including governments, public and private providers and healthcare payers, and continued investments in bringing the vision of healthcare transformation to life, then progress and a positive impact is inevitable.”

A look ahead

Technological innovation, partnerships and collaboration between those in the healthcare ecosystem and governments are required to tackle combined climate and health emergencies and transform the region’s healthcare system. Events such as Arab Health can act as a springboard for such change. 

ESG Mena will be providing coverage across the event, so stay tuned for updates and insights from those innovating within the industry. 

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