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Gulf News is launching its first-ever commercial podcast, MS Talks - Keep Moving Forward, an in-depth five-part series on multiple sclerosis in partnership with Novartis. Muna Al Harbi, an MS patient, hosts the series that covers the challenges of living with the disease and how to manage them.

“Our mission is to enable people living with the disease to live free from the impact,” says Joy Khoury, Country Head Communications and Patient Engagement at Novartis.

“Through a close partnership with the MS community and reputable media outlets such as Gulf News, we focus on solutions that go beyond treatment and put patients at the centre by raising awareness and bringing hope to those suffering with MS through these podcast series.

“Such partnerships are a testament to our mission to reimagining medicine to improve and extend people’s lives.”

The podcasts are a bold new venture for the region’s leading English newspaper too – one born out of a truly challenging era.

“With the pandemic turning revenue streams into a trickle, publishers across the world have been forced to reassess the best ways to grow the business,” says David George, Publisher at agnc3, Gulf News’ bespoke content creation agency.

“Working on a podcast series with a global company like Novartis offered us a promising avenue to launch and expand our storytelling capabilities into audio formats. Globally, the podcasts industry has seen significant growth in content creation.

“We’re very excited about this – it has been a long time coming. Hosted by Emirati MS warrior Muna Al Harbi, the series will reflect what readers want and expect from us – unique content they can’t get anywhere else.

“We’re excited to keep building on what we’ve created. This is an add-on to some of the several new content initiatives we launched over the course of the past year such as webinars, short films, and bespoke events dedicated to education, sustainability and immigration.”

To be launched in January, the podcast series starts with Muna’s story of hope, where she, along with her son Hamdan and sister Mariam Al Harbi, takes us through her journey from confusion to diagnosis and acceptance.

Host of Gulf News and Novartis' podcast series, MS Talks - Keep Moving Forward, Muna Al Harbi (right) with sister Mariam Image Credit: Stefan Lindeque/Gulf News

In the remaining episodes, leading experts in the field such as Dr Jihad Inshasi, Dr Ahmed Shatila and Dr Bassem Yamout as well as two experienced nurses, Joelle Massouh and Nurse Asma Hasan, offer Muna and the audience an insight into the nature of the disease, latest treatments and the need for transparency in communication.

Raising awareness about the disease is a mission for Muna, who had to undergo the challenging transformation from a patient to an empowered advocate by herself. “I saw there was a lack of information about MS, an MS community, events - about things related to the disease. So, I said to myself: why don’t I speak up and speak out about it?

“It had a huge impact and many people reached out to me. Many were suffering in silence. This gave me a stronger motivation to keep moving forward and keep helping people to cope with such a disease.”