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Shedding light on emerging trends in public health

Article-Shedding light on emerging trends in public health

Canva public-health
Technology is playing a pivotal role in the faster diagnosis of different diseases.

Abu Dhabi was recently named the safest city in the world for 2023, for the sixth year in a row. The Emirate’s success has been evident, especially in its response to the COVID-19 public health emergency, which was praised globally. The UAE’s capital saw seamless integration between health and non-health entities and quickly adopted new technologies, significantly supporting the public health response.

At the forefront of the UAE’s pandemic response was HE Dr. Farida Al Hosani, the Executive Director of the Infectious Disease Sector at the Abu Dhabi Public Health Center (ADPHC). During the peak of the crisis, she became a familiar face, updating UAE’s population on the pandemic’s developments and safety measures. She is also the first Emirati woman to join World Health Organisation’s (WHO) Pandemic Influenza Preparedness Framework Advisory Group. In an interview, she stressed that public health is not only the responsibility of health entities but also that of the private sector and other non-health entities, as their actions could create certain implications for society.

Dr Farida Al Hosani

Dr. Farida Al Hosani

“During the pandemic, having organised coordination between the different sectors helped us to respond quickly to the crisis. I hope this collaboration will continue to develop to ensure emergency preparedness and response for future health emergencies,” she shared.

When asked about emerging public health trends, HE Dr. Al Hosani highlighted that technology is pivotal, especially in point-of-care testing and faster diagnosis of different diseases. This is evident in radiology, with automated readings becoming available for chest X-rays, Tuberculosis (TB) screening, and genetic sequencing for certain infectious diseases, which started with COVID-19 and has been expanded to influenza and RSV.

Furthermore, automation and the use of artificial intelligence (AI) in different screening programmes, such as genetic testing for decision-making and prioritisation of different population groups, are gaining traction. The use of bioinformatics in different public health programmes is also increasing, leading to the creation of big data hubs.

She added: “Another emerging area is the metaverse. It is fairly new and still in the testing phase but rapidly developing. In the future, it could have great potential in creating awareness and education of healthcare professionals.”

However, one of the challenges that technology presents is workforce training, said HE Dr. Al Hosani. “We need public health personnel to have, for example, bioinformatics skill sets and training. There is a lot of shortage in this area, and we need to develop and train our employees. Also, the selection of the technologies needs to be validated using research and data to ensure that we are using the best technology to enhance our current system,” she concluded.

Combatting the challenge of climate change

Climate change and its effect on health are having a major impact on the burden of disease. Therefore, HE Dr. Al Hosani stressed it’s important for entities such as ADPHC to work hand in hand with environmental agencies and other stakeholders to study the effect of climate change on human health burden and have a mitigation plan for capacity building.

She said: “For example, dengue and malaria incidence is widening and affecting areas that have never encountered these diseases before. So, we must work together as a global society, leverage innovation and research, adopt the best environmentally friendly strategies, and work on a plan to tackle these emerging health issues.”

This article appears in Omnia Health magazine. Read the full issue online today.

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