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Cancer, Heart Disease and Child Mortality Tackled in Middle East

The Middle East could easily be looked at as the bedrock of civilization. It is the birthplace of agriculture, writing, science, as well as some of the world’s biggest religions.

But in the modern age, the Middle East is suffering many of the ills to have befallen the Western world, namely diseases brought about by the sedentary lifestyle: heart disease, obesity, diabetes, cancer. These are collectively termed non-communicable diseases (NCDs), and the fight against them is bringing together some of the biggest global players of the Healthcare arena.


From the 26th to the 29th of January this year, Dubai is hosting the 40th Arab Health conference. GE Healthcare will be celebrating 40 years in the Middle East and North Africa region, and will be showcasing its latest efforts in the fight against NCDs with only one goal in mind: better healthcare for all.

The steady rise of NCDs is concerning to all governments and health ministries in the region. By the year 2022, the cost of non-communicable diseases is expected to reach USD68 billion if no action is taken. It is estimated that heart disease will directly account for nearly 28 percent of this cost.1

Findings from the World Bank show that, between 1990 and 2010, heart disease rose by 44 percent, stroke rose by 35 percent, and diabetes rose by 87 percent. The direst result is more premature death and disability than ever before, not to mention a huge burden being placed on current healthcare infrastructures.2

The particularly high prevalence in the region of poor diets, high blood pressure, high body mass index and smoking are contributing to the growing burden of non-communicable diseases in the region. The developments unveiled at this year’s Arab Health conference will help curb these trends.

A problem when diagnosing cardiovascular is that imaging the heart using computed tomography (CT) can be extremely difficult. Heart disease will often raise one’s heart rate beyond 60 beats per minute. Unhelpfully, the clarity and accuracy of a CT image depends on the subject remaining as still as possible (in the case of the heart, beating at 60 beats per minute or less).


With the introduction of GE Healthcare’s Revolution EVO CT scanner, imaging fast-beating hearts becomes possible. Revolution EVO CT is a scanner that can capture a high-resolution, 3D image of the heart mid-beat, much like a high-speed camera. The UAE Ministry of Health is installing the Revolution EVO CT across its hospitals. By converging spatial resolution, temporal resolution, and coverage with low X-ray dosage – all in one machine – it provides remarkable image quality and can help achieve up to 40% increased workflow efficiency for a hospital.

Oncology will also get a boost from this year’s conference. New cancer cases each year are expected to rise to 16 million by 2020 and nearly 60 percent of this increase will be in developing countries where healthcare facilities and patient care are limited.3 The boost is in the form of a cutting-edge PET/CT (Positron Emission Tomography/Computed Tomography) system. PET, an imaging technique that provides a 3D image of functional processes in the body, is different from more traditional imaging systems which simply identify anatomic location or the size of a tumor.

The way the system works is explained eloquently by Maher Abouzeid, President and CEO of GE Healthcare in Turkey and the Middle East.

“Think of a CT image as a geographic map and the PET image as the weather system,” he said. “The two images together, just like a weather map on the local news, provide both the location of the tumor in the body and the molecular activity in the tumor. Changes in tumor function often precede changes in tumor size, so PET/CT systems can allow early indication of disease progression, and a patient’s response to treatment.”

Another healthcare challenge to the Middle East that needs addressing is infant health. According to a UNICEF report, while the mortality rate (deaths per 1,000 live births) in the Middle East and North Africa region for children under the age of five years declined by 3.9 percent from 1990 to 2012, the share of neo-natal deaths or newborns in this group, increased from 40 percent in 1990 to 51 percent in 2012. The report states that around 44 percent of the global under-five deaths occurred in the neonatal period (the first 28 days of life) in 2012.

The Dubai Health Authority is focused on significantly improving care for children, and the Al Jalila Children’s Specialty Hospital, recently opened in Dubai, is the first specialized children’s hospital in the UAE.


New technologies will be unveiled at Arab Health to treat the young patients there. It will be dedicated to treating children’s diseases including cancer, heart disease and mental illnesses. The equipment includes the world’s first high definition CT scanner, the Discovery 750 HD, the Giraffe OmniBed, an incubator with an in-built warmer designed to provide uniform heat to a premature baby, and the VScan, a handheld device based on ultrasound technology, which can be used to easily assess internal fluid flow, and which is about the size of a smartphone so that clinicians can carry it in their pockets.

Click here to learn more about GE Healthcare at Arab Health 2015, and here for a virtual tour of the booth. Download the Arab Health mobile app for iOS or Android to help you easily find your way around the conference.


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