The mini-state of Dubai by the Persian – or if you prefer – the Arabic – Gulf aggressively follows a most ambitious master plan to position Dubai as the key regional hub. It has already been quite successful in air transports, with Dubai as the given airport for West Asian travelling and cargo as well as for stop-overs between other continents. If you´re used to far from fancy airports in North America and Europe the Emirates airport look like an impeccably cleaned Las Vegas´ ballroom rather than a meeting place for low price airline commuters.
Further, the Dubai planners aim to establish a world-leading University City, the already existing Media City will expand to global renown, there will be an Internet City and in a few years the Dubailand entertainment park is supposed to outsize every Disneyland attraction. And of course there is the expanding Healthcare City as well (read more at www.dhcc.ae).
The Dubai development authorities hope to build regional centres of excellence in areas such as heart conditions, diabetes, breast cancer and osteoporosis. With genetic dispositions and diets among the original population causing quickly growing prevalence for cardiovascular complications and diabetes, to mention some diseases, there is no lack of tasks. The combination of Western style fast food, obesity and a city planning forcing you to go by car offers huge challenges to the health authorities in Dubai and its likewise small neighbours in the United Arab Federation.
To Dubai, international partnerships seem to be the strategy, with Harvard Medical School, John Hopkins et cetera already in place and with further players to enter. A Swedish provider – Gothenburg-based Global Health Partner – already runs a diabetic clinic in the Gulf region.
Geneva or Bangkok?
Dubai has 1.81.811111111112345555567less than two million inhabitants of which 83 percent are foreigners, mostly Indians, Pakistanis and other Asians working in the vast service industry. The Arab citizens have free, high quality healthcare and the expansion of healthcare facilities primarily addresses the needs of Arab populations in the region, where patients traditionally have gone to London, Cyprus or other former British outposts. Today the very wealthy Arabic middle class can afford to go to also the US, Switzerland or the best Asian hospitals in Singapore, Thailand, South Korea or India. The Dubai centres of excellence will have a tough competition for the growing number of international medical travelers. Read my conference presentation at www.healthpowerhouse.com and my call for healthcare transparency also in the Arabic world.
At the Arab Health Congress in Dubai, where I lectured last week, this global competition was evident. At the huge simultaneous Health Exhibition large many health tech and pharmaceutical companies from countries such as Turkey, Jordan, Morocco, Indonesia, Malaysia, India and even Bangladesh proved the rapid development of new competitive economie (sure, also big market leaders such as Siemens, Medtronic, Lilly and Samsung and many more were there, tracking oil money). Healthcare already is the world´s largest industry and in the Gulf region an industry of the future. Healthcare is becoming a lifestyle issue also in this part of the world and there is no lack of money.
Growing costs – yes, please!
To Westerners, since decades used to efforts how to reduce healthcare costs, the perspective presented by one of my co-speakers was refreshing and provoking:
- To the majority of governments around the world the thing is to raise support for larger healthcare budgets while in the West we talk of nothing but cuts. If you spend 2-3 percent of your GDP on public health and healthcare there is no alternative to massive growth!
Johan Hjertqvist, HCP