Abu Dhabi: Because of its relatively young population, the emirate of Abu Dhabi currently has a major opportunity to develop its health-care industry, a senior health official said in the capital yesterday.

Unlike many communities in the western world that are now facing increasingly ageing populations, the average age of residents in the emirate is 28 years, revealed Zaid Al Siksek, chief executive officer of the Health Authority Abu Dhabi (Haad).

"We are therefore working to develop the ‘ecosystem' for a robust health-care industry that includes accurate information about patients and medical providers, as well as access to various health-care services. Thereafter, we will focus on enhancing the level of human capital among medical professionals in the emirate so that we are prepared for a time when the population begins to age," Al Siksek said.

Effective measure

He was speaking at the 2nd World Healthcare Congress Middle East 2011, which kicked off in the capital yesterday. It is being held under the patronage of General Shaikh Mohammad Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Abu Dhabi Crown Prince and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces.

The three-day congress organised by Haad and the Abu Dhabi Tourism Authority is expected to attract 600 medical professionals and investors, and will focus on spearheading medical innovation and investment in the emirate.

Among some of the key topics of discussion was the impact of the global economic crisis on the health-care sector growth.

"As an effective measure for controlling costs and improving long-term well-being of residents, the emirate of Abu Dhabi is paying particular attention to its public health and prevention programmes that help control the spread of non-communicable diseases like diabetes," Al Siksek said.

Experts at the conference also called for decisions based on accurate data, and highlighted how many nations in the Middle East and North Africa (Mena) region still lacked sufficient data on disease incidence and health-care spending.

Capacity needs

Laila Al Jasmi, chief executive officer of health policy and strategy at the Dubai Health Authority (DHA), said the DHA was collecting information on Dubai's health-care capacity needs.

"We want to determine exactly how much is being spent on health care, and find out which medical services are in demand across private medical facilities. This kind of data will help direct future policy," she added.