Making the Move: United Arab Emirates


Fraser Clarke

It’s at this time of year that many people start considering (or in many cases start re-considering) the idea of a move abroad.

A new year brings with it new hopes, a fresh start and the opportunity to do something you’ve been hoping to do for a while. So why not make 2018 the year you finally go for that new life overseas?

Over the final six weeks of 2017 we’re looking at a select group of the countries we work with, and examine why you should make the move in 2018.

During this we’ll recap some of the major news stories from 2017, look at the health issues facing the country, what sort of person would be suited to a move, and what the future could have in store. So read on, and join in the conversation on social media using the #OdyMTM2018.

In the third article in our exclusive series we’re going to take a look at the United Arab Emirates. A country that has been a favourite amongst expats for almost two decades now.

What Made the News in 2017?

It’s been another busy year across the Emirates, with pioneering technology, remarkable procedures and big changes to taxation dominating the headlines.

2017 began with medics at Sharjah’s Al Qasimi Hospital carrying out skull reconstruction surgery using 3D technology for the fourth time. The procedure, which cost in excess of £6500, saw 3D printed bones, proven to be stronger than natural ones, inserted into the patient’s skull as a replacement for those that had been shattered.

Less than a week later 2000 of the world’s leading healthcare experts came together in Dubai, for the Emirates’ annual healthcare forum.

This was followed by the opening of the UAE’s first robotic pharmacy, where the ‘bots are able to serve 12 patients a minute - and have a knowledge of more than 35,000 medicines, making them truly adaptable.

In February, plans for Sharjah’s first free economic zone were given the green light, as the Emirates’ quest to become a healthcare hub stepped up a gear. At the same time it was revealed that work on Abu Dhabi’s Sheikh Shakhbout Medical City were 90% complete - offering 732 beds, including 36 VIP suites.

Also in February, medics at Rashid Hospital in Dubai saved a 62 year old man’s life after removing a tumour weighing an incredible 4kg from his kidney. Meanwhile the deadline for being covered by mandatory health insurance was extended until the end of March.

As Spring arrived, things began to gradually slow down after a busy opening to the year. Dubai based business conglomerate The Thumbay Group added to its growing healthcare portfolio, by opening new, state of the art, family clinics with connected pharmacies in Dubai and Fujairah. In April Dubai’s Knowledge and Human Development Authority called for more psychiatrists in the country, to deal with the increased number of young people suffering from mental health problems.

As May began we reported on the beginning of work in Dubai’s new Radiosurgery Hospital, the first of its kind to be located in the new Science Park Free Zone. The month ended with experts speaking about the troubles that can arise in managing diabetes during Ramadan.

The midpoint of the year saw the country pledge more than $30m in order to totally eliminate polio worldwide, whilst medics removed an enormous 17.5kg tumour from a female patient’s abdomen at Latifa Hospital in Dubai - thought to be the biggest ever removed in the hospital’s 31 year history.

In mid-July Telemedical advancements in the UAE took another step forward, with the introduction of ‘smart’ health booths in Dubai’s Road Transport Authority’s headquarters. These are capable of carrying out blood pressure, blood sugar level, temperature, lipid profile, BMI, heart rate, blood oxygen and ECG tests, without the need for an appointment.

As the month ended, we reported on the story of Eman Abdul Atti - believed to be the world’s fattest woman - who had her weight cut to below 100kg thanks to the hard work of medics at Burjeel Hospital.

In September we brought you news concerning the introduction of new VAT laws throughout the Gulf, that look certain to have a major impact on personal finances across the region. Later in the month Eman Abdul Atti passed away, just days after her 37th birthday - with the damage already done to her heart and kidneys given as the biggest reason for this.

The year would end with the UAE topping a report that ranked countries by the number of Joint Commission International accredited hospitals they had. A glowing testimony to the high standard of care on offer in the country.

What are the Biggest Health Issues in the UAE?

Obesity - The UAE’s battle with the bulge is showing no signs of being won, as the country continues to expand both in numbers and size. 

Recent estimates have shown that almost 70% of the Emirates’ population are at an unhealthy weight, with this being blamed on rapid development and a lack of education about how to lead a healthy lifestyle. Slowly attitudes are changing as people begin to learn about the major issues that result from being obese - however this will take time.

For now obesity can be linked to most of the major health problems in the United Arab Emirates - as well as more generally throughout the Gulf.

Heart Disease - The world’s biggest killer, heart disease, is as big an issue in the UAE as you would expect - with almost 30% of deaths in the country coming as a result of it. Coronary heart disease rates are the 24th highest on the planet, and with youth obesity rates in the country rising this ranking looks destined to rise further in the near future.

With the average heart disease patient being diagnosed a full 20 years earlier than the US average (at 45, rather than 65 years of age) a long battle with cardiac problems looks to lie ahead.

Lymphomas - Cancer of the Lymphatic system appears to be on the rise in the UAE, with the country now being home to the world’s ninth highest rates of the condition. Unfortunately the reasons for this remain unknown, with various experts pointing to a range of factors from exposure to radiation, to family genetics.

Who is Suited to a Move?

Whilst the UAE does have plenty to offer families, couples and lone travellers, they are all mainly attracted by one thing - the financial rewards a move can bring. If you are looking for a relatively short term career move to boost your finances, and experience another way of life, then the Emirates can be perfect.

Very few people stay in the country for the long-term however. It is unusual for people to stay for more than a decade, and many leave after only a few years. The oppressive heat during summer, an artificial feeling environment, and potential lack of stability in the future make it less than ideal for those looking to put down roots abroad.

What Does the Future Have In Store?

“You are the real wealth, not the three million barrels of oil. You are the future of this nation’s security and safety net. We are in a good condition now, but we want to establish the vision for 50 years ahead.”

Those were the words of Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi, when he spoke to young people at a conference earlier this year. His words are pertinent. As the oil price continues to plummet, and as the world turns its back on fossil fuels, the UAE must drive its economy beyond the commodity that shaped the country it is today.

Fortunately it appears to be doing this, with healthcare being a sector that looks as if it will benefit from increased backing. Time will be the best judge of how successful the transition from an oil-based economy to a more standardised one has been in the long run however.

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