Lifestyle diseases are some of the most pressing healthcare challenges facing the region today. In 2015, more than half of all deaths in the GCC were caused by non-communicable diseases. The economic burden that this is having on governments should not be underestimated: Healthcare expenditure in the GCC is rising rapidly and is projected to reach US$104.6 billion in 2022, from US$76.1 billion in 2017. Meanwhile, the UK’s NHS has also been experiencing challenges as a result of a marked increase in lifestyle diseases, and in particular obesity, diabetes and lung, colorectal and skin cancers.
The UK and GCC nations are both facing a notable rise in obesity levels. Obesity is often a precursor to other long-term conditions such as diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease and high cholesterol – all of which can have a huge strain on the healthcare system. According to a report by the British Medical Journal, 28 per cent of UK adults were obese in 2016 whilst the World Health Organisation (WHO) indicates that Gulf countries have the highest rates of obesity globally. Introducing innovative technologies that can support in the diagnosis and treatment of such conditions will be key to providing more efficient – and ultimately more cost-effective – care in the long-term. There are a number of pioneering technologies already on the market that can educate patients about their likelihood of developing certain conditions and the main risk factors. These patient-centric solutions can also monitor sufferers for signs of disease progression and offer social support to empower patients to better manage their own conditions.
The UK is a world-leader in the development of health technology and is committed to working with its partners in the GCC to jointly tackle lifestyle diseases and achieve the region’s healthcare visions. The UK medical technology sector is vibrant and growing, with 121,900 people employed in 3,583 businesses and a turnover of £22.2 billion. British technologies such as Boditrax – a solution that offers precision body composition and cellular monitoring could prove instrumental in helping the UK and the GCC to address lifestyle diseases. Boditrax assesses a number of variables including a person’s body fat and water composition; it also provides a visceral fat rating whilst advising users on their basal metabolic rate. The solution enables obese, and healthy users, alike, to better understand their body composition in order to make positive changes to their diet and exercise regime.
Lifestyles diseases undoubtedly take a huge toll on the mental and physical health of a patient. Additionally, the treatment of these diseases can also prove to be extremely distressing. The effects of chemotherapy treatment can be very upsetting for many cancer patients. However, there are a number of technologies available that can help to reduce unwanted side effects such as hair loss. UK technology company, Paxman, have developed an innovative scalp cooling solution that alleviates damage to the hair follicles by reducing the temperature of the scalp by just a few degrees immediately before, during and after the administration of chemotherapy drugs. This in turn reduces the blood flow to the hair root bulb minimising, and in many cases, preventing hair loss. Patients have reported regaining a greater degree of control in their battle against cancer after using the cap, whilst many said that it enabled them to develop a more positive attitude towards chemotherapy treatment. Paxman’s Scalp Cooling is now available in hospitals in the UAE and Kuwait and the company is planning to enter Saudi Arabia in 2020.
Although patient empowerment is crucial to treating lifestyle diseases, there are also a number of pioneering technologies that can enable clinicians to deliver more efficient and effective treatment. Integrated care across all health services is key to the early detection of diseases and the management of long-term conditions that require the support of a number of doctors and care providers.
One of the most important technologies driving integrated care are those that deliver centralised electronic health records. TPP is one of the UK’s leading healthcare technology companies dedicated to delivering software that is specially designed to support the safer and more standardised provision of healthcare. The company is the pioneer of SystmOne – a complete clinical and administrative solution that enables data to be shared securely across health services. SystmOne has already worked closely with the Health Bank – a global medical concierge service based in the UAE – to deliver electronic medical records, whilst the company continues to work with other GCC nations to transform their private health sectors.
To date, the UK and the GCC have partnered on a number of key projects to further advance the region’s healthcare sector including the opening of Kings College Hospital in Abu Dhabi and Dubai; the establishment of Imperial College’s Diabetes Research Centres in Abu Dhabi and Al Ain; and University College London’s (UCL) five-year partnership with Umm Al Qura University in Mecca to develop an integrated undergraduate education programme to cater to the unique and diverse healthcare needs of the country. Great progress has undoubtedly been made, but with a further 700 projects currently live across the region, there are bountiful opportunities to extend this relationship. The UK Department for International Trade is committed to working with Ministries of Health across the Middle East by connecting them with UK technology companies that can support in tackling lifestyle diseases, which are forecast to cost the GCC US$68 billion by 2022. The UK is eager to share its insights, standards and protocols with governments and private firms in the region. This will enable both parties to find joint solutions to the shared challenges facing Britain and GCC nations relating directly to the effective and efficient management of lifestyle diseases.