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In the words of the UAE President, His Highness Shaikh Mohammad Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, the UAE’s Centennial 2071 project emphasises on its goal “for future generations to live a happier life in a better environment, with bigger opportunities and stronger communication with the world.” Based on the four pillars of education, economy, government development and community cohesion, this future blueprint that will aid the UAE to become the best country in the world, however, requires a critical component to hold it all together and make it click — healthcare.

Preventive rather than curative

The nation’s leadership has always been of the view that a happy and cohesive society cannot be achieved if overall healthcare is compromised and UAE residents do not have access to the highest standards of healthcare in the world. And this makes the argument more sound that preventive rather than curative healthcare is the way to go.

The nation’s well established and burgeoning healthcare sector has nurtured some of the world’s best medical institutions and talents in healthcare and speaking exclusively to GN Focus on the occasion of World Health Day and its related theme of health for all, representatives from the UAE healthcare industry align with the narrative drawn by the UAE leadership on the importance of preventive health to achieve a cohesive society and health and well-being for all.

Dr Ramesh Bhaskaran

Emphasising on the importance of regular check-ups for overall health, Dr Ramesh Bhaskaran, Specialist Internal Medicine, Aster Hospital Sharjah, believes preventive health check-ups primarily help in diagnosing underlying conditions and evaluating the functioning of major organs. “In many cases, lifestyle conditions such as diabetes, hypertension and cholesterol are the root causes that will lead to life-threatening conditions. So, it is important that one undergoes a check-up once in six months.

For those with underlying medical conditions, it would enable the doctor to check whether any of the organs have been affected. Diagnosing these conditions at an early stage would help us to correct these by medication and simple lifestyle modifications. Delay in diagnosing or addressing these issues will lead to complicated conditions that are irreversible.”

Dr Eman Ibrahim Eliwa

Agreeing with Dr Bhaskaran, Dr Eman Ibrahim Eliwa, Specialist Family Medicine, Burjeel Medical City also mentions the importance of preventive healthcare in staying motivated to remain healthy and fit. “Without regular health appointments, there is less motivation to maintain your general health, so healthy habits that maintain your cholesterol, BMI and stress levels will be neglected,” she says. Dr Eliwa also points out that here in the UAE, anyone above the age of 15 is at an increased risk of lifestyle diseases, hence scheduling those doctor visits regularly from an early age is important.

Dr Vivek Karan

Building on the point, Dr Vivek Karan, Consultant Neurologist, Thumbay University Hospital, says, “A large number of lifestyle diseases in the initial stages like high or low blood pressure, diabetes, cardiac care and stress are mostly requested for preventive check-ups.”

Check-up options

The UAE’s premier brands offer varied options in the field of preventive healthcare and that are commonly requested by patients.

Elaborating on the options made available at Aster Hospitals and Clinics, Dr Bhaskaran says, “We have a diverse set of preventive health checks ranging from basic to comprehensive testing. The basic check-up would screen for lifestyle conditions, while the comprehensive test would screen for lifestyle conditions along with the functioning of organs such as liver, kidney and so on.”

Aster also has specific health check packages that offer screening for particular organs, adds Dr Bhaskaran. “For example, a kidney-screening or heart-screening package would involve all tests that would let us evaluate the health of these organs.”

Dr Eliwa of Burjeel Medical City says, “For most adults, depending on age, doctors will recommend a screening schedule that includes regular physical exams, body mass index (BMI), skin checks, cholesterol and blood pressure screening, eye exams, immunisations, and screening for sexually transmitted diseases. IFHAS is a comprehensive periodic screening programme that contributes to reducing the burden of non-communicable chronic diseases like cardiovascular diseases and cancers in Abu Dhabi, among Thiqa insurance card holders who are 18 years and above.

“The health screening includes an integrated assessment of the health risks received through a general health-related questionnaire, in addition to a comprehensive clinical examination that includes comprehensive health screenings commensurate with the most important health challenges, according to age group and gender.

“The programme includes tests to detect risk factors for cardiovascular disease, top-priority cancers, musculoskeletal disease, elderly citizens’ health, oral health, and general mental health.”

Thumbay Labs, on its part in terms of preventive screenings offers a complete health check-up package priced at Dh200 for the screening of 83 parameters, says Dr Karan of Thumbay University Hospital. “This includes Complete Blood Count (CBC), Liver Function Tests, Kidney Function Tests, Lipid Profile, Whole Blood Glycosylated Hemoglobin (HbA1C), Serum Vitamin D Total (25 OH), Vitamin B12 (Serum), TSH, FBS, Iron, Testosterone, T3 T4 and Urine Routine.”

Age-related screening

In ending, Dr Eliwa urges all to be aware that preventive healthcare screening changes with age. “How it changes will depend on your personal and family medical history, and whether you have risk factors for certain diseases,” she says. “For example, most young adults don’t need a regular colonoscopy, but if there’s a family history of polyps or colon cancer, doctors may recommend that test become a regular part of your healthcare.

"Having a family history may also make you a good candidate for genetic testing, which can identify whether you are at high risk for developing certain diseases.”