Tackling the Tobacco Crisis in the UAE
October 31st – November 1st, 2014
The 2014 Public Health Think Tank (PHTT) Conference focused on one of the most pressing public health issue in the UAE today, smoking. Why target tobacco in the UAE? As is occurring throughout the GCC, recents studies have shown that the prevalence of smoking among Emirati youth is on the rise, with an alarming 82.1% of secondary school students in the UAE having tried their first cigarette by the age of 14. More generally, it has been estimated that tobacco usage contributes to over 68% of all non-infectious diseases, including cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and chronic respiratory disease among others. Therefore, the ubiquity of tobacco products such as cigarettes and sheesha in the everyday life of the UAE undeniably constitutes a major public health concern for the Emirati society.
The aim of the inaugural conference was to challenge delegates to find new and innovative ways of targeting the high incidence of tobacco usage and addiction in the UAE. Teams were charged with the task of creating a public health intervention that they believed would contribute effectively to the local battle against smoking. This proposed intervention could take almost any form – perhaps a public health policy draft, a health education campaign, a new software monitoring program, a hospital initiative or an artistic project – but had to take into account both the social and biological aspects of health and disease. By the end of the two-day conference, each team devised an action plan for the implementation of their smoking intervention and presented their proposal to the delegation and panel of judges – composed of important figures working in the field of public health and smoking intervention in the UAE. The winning team received an award and became eligible for a grant to implement their idea here in the UAE.