More investment in medical research, UAE charity urges

Al Jalila Foundation chief says business leaders and philanthropists have to do more to help create a thriving medical research sector in the UAE.

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DUBAI // A medical charity has urged the community to invest more in medical research to combat the country’s number one killer, heart disease.

“The UAE statistics on heart disease are terrifying. We need to act and to change,” said Dr Abdulkareem Al Olama, chief executive of Al Jalila Foundation, to mark World Heart Day on Monday.

The foundation was set up last year by Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, Vice President and Ruler of Dubai, and named after his daughter.

Cardiovascular disease is responsible for 30 per cent of deaths in the UAE, and 39 per cent in Abu Dhabi.

Dr Al Olama said business leaders and philanthropists had to do more to build up the medical research sector, which could address these conditions.

“World Heart Day reminds us that one of the most important investments our country can make is in medical research,” he said.

“Every dirham makes a difference and every dirham raised goes directly towards our programmes, advancing medical education and research for the UAE and its people.”

The Dubai Health Authority says the average age for a first heart attack in the UAE is about 45 years, compared with 65 globally, and one in every five deaths in Dubai is attributable to cardiovascular disease, making it the leading cause of death.

Marwan Abedin, chief executive of Dubai Healthcare City and director of Al Jalila Foundation, said research was usually prohibitively expensive, so funding was essential.

“At its core, health care is about treating people,” said Mr Abedin. “Effective treatment is based on evidence-based medicine, which in turn is based on medical research.”

The foundation is funding a Dh100 million medical research centre in Dubai, which aims to nurture a home-grown generation of health professionals.

Al Jalila Medical Research Centre, the first of its kind in the country, will focus on obesity, cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, cancer and mental health.