Longevity is an emerging field focused on healthy aging, comprising technologies and software that aim to improve health and lengthen the lifespan of people. Image Credit: Gulf News Archives

Dubai: UAE has proved to be a trendsetter and leader in setting new records with respect to several healthcare indices in the region.

It is the second country after the US with the highest number of government and private hospitals accredited by either the Joint Commission International in the US, or Australian and Canadian accreditation bodies and third after the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and European Medicines Agency (EMA) in registering the maximum innovation drugs, expediting the process of providing innovative medicines and supporting medical tourism.

The UAE government was the primary investor in healthcare within the country. In 2019, the government funded approximately 69 per cent of the country’s total healthcare expenditure, amounting to $16 billion. From 2018 to 2022, however, private-sector healthcare spending is forecast to grow at 9.5 per cent as per the figures forecast for the compound annual growth rate CAGR.

High life-expectancy records

Another first achieved by the UAE is in rasing the average life expectancy and longevity sector investment. With the rising elderly population and growing concern about old-age care, the UAE has set a precedent for the region’s longevity sector by embracing data and analytics, elevating the discourse on healthy aging and commencing the development of national longevity policies. These efforts are aimed at developing more senior care facilities and longevity clinics, as well as attracting cutting-edge technologies and investments into the sector.

Longevity is an emerging field focused on healthy aging, comprising technologies and software that aim to improve health and lengthen the lifespan of people. The evolving sector is expected to be the largest and most sophisticated of all time. It sits at the intersection of several subsectors from BioTech and pharmaceuticals to FinTech and InsurTech, among many others. In 2020, the market size of the longevity sector in the UAE surpassed $19 billion, and it is projected to grow at a CAGR of 8.5 per cent to reach $32 billion by 2026.

It has entered into a strategic partnership with the Sharjah Research Technology and Innovation Park (SRTIP) and Deep Knowledge Analytics (DKA) to map and develop the longevity sector in the UAE.

Launch of life sciences in the UAE

In collaboration with the UAE Ministry of Health and Prevention and the Department of Health in Abu Dhabi, SRTIP and DKA have recently organised a virtual conference to tackle some of the most pressing challenges facing the sector. The event also saw the launch of the Life Sciences in the UAE, which revealed that the number of hospitals in the UAE increased from 107 in 2013 to over 140 in 2019. In 2019, this comprised a total of approximately 14,000 hospital beds.

The event addressed the expected shifts in public policy focus from youth to addressing the needs of the elderly, the healthcare impact of a growing aging population, the socio-economic impact of longevity, the development of a sustainable old-age care plan and national longevity policies, and the role of the private sector and investors.

it was approximately 25 years ago when the life sciences industry emerged in the UAE. The main drivers of growth were the healthcare and pharmaceutical sectors. From the outset, the UAE has been leading the region’s life sciences domain, realizing its vision of achieving world-class healthcare infrastructure and services.

What health care leaders say

Commenting on the present advancements in healthcare, Dr Amin Al Amiri, Undersecretary for the Health Regulation Sector at the UAE Ministry of Health, said: “The UAE remains a pioneer in providing healthcare services and pharmaceuticals. Stemming from our leadership’s vision, one of our main objectives as a nation is to invest in human health. The UAE healthcare and pharmaceutical sectors continue to lead regionally and globally thanks to the clear national and international quality standards of our medical services and staff.”

Dr Omar Najim, Director of Executive Office, Department of Health Abu Dhabi, said: “Abu Dhabi and the UAE continue to pave the way globally in new adoption and implementation of healthcare technologies. This includes the full implementation of the first full health information exchange Malafi, through which Abu Dhabi has been using AI effectively for pandemic response and population health management.”

Hussain Al Mahmoudi, Chief Executive Officer of Sharjah Research Technology and Innovation Park, said: “We are committed to engaging with relevant stakeholders, including the UAE government, the private sector and academia with the aim of developing the longevity industry and create new opportunities for our communities, while putting the health and wellbeing of our senior citizens and residents on top of our development agenda.”

Alexei Cresniov, Director of Deep Knowledge Analytics, said: “The UAE government remains committed to continuously strategising and improving the quality of its healthcare system. National policies and local programs have been strengthening the country’s position as a hub for pharmaceuticals, medical research, development centres, and now longevity.”