The Abu Dhabi Public Health Centre (ADPHC) of the Department of Health – Abu Dhabi (DoH), for the first time in the Middle East, is hosting a consultation on comprehensive surveillance for influenza and other respiratory viruses a World Health Organisation event from December 11 to 13, 2023, in Abu Dhabi. This event brings together over 100 participants, including representatives from the Global disease prevention and diagnostic laboratories in 60 countries and international experts. The objective is to set and execute a global approach for the preparedness for influenza and other priority respiratory with epidemic and pandemic potential.
In collaboration with the World Health Organization (WHO), and with support from the Ministry of Health and Prevention, this initiative aligns with Abu Dhabi’s healthcare sector's strategy aiming to enhance surveillance systems and their readiness for dealing with emerging respiratory diseases. The continuous improvement in dealing with such diseases is crucial, given that influenza is a prevalent respiratory ailment posing a significant challenge to community health, with impacts spanning across various sectors. This hosting further solidifies Abu Dhabi's global position as a global destination for healthcare readiness and emergency preparedness.
This hosting will enable the utilisation of global experiences and expertise in public health, fostering international collaboration to build networks dedicated to combating infectious diseases. It aims to discover the latest strategies for preventing the spread of influenza. Furthermore, its outcomes will contribute to updating surveillance practices, and developing the integrated Global Influenza Surveillance and Response System (GISRS), thereby enhancing the capacity to address global health challenges & strengthen mechanisms for GISRS to coordinate with non-sentinel surveillance and response systems for early detection, monitoring activity and informed use of public health measures in a future pandemic or epidemic.
In a statement by H.E Matar Saeed Al Nuaimi, the Director General of Abu Dhabi Public Health Centre (ADPHC): "This unique event aims to achieve a common understanding of global health challenges and exchange experiences in the context of preventing the spread of influenza. Discussions focused on enhancing international collaboration against infectious diseases, encouraging the development of new strategies to prevent the spread of influenza and other respiratory viruses, and emphasising research and development to contribute to enhancing Abu Dhabi's ability to provide advanced solutions to public health challenges and elevate its position as a key player in medicine and scientific research."
HE Dr Hussain Abdul Rahman Al Rand, Assistant Undersecretary for the Public Health Sector, emphasized the importance of hosting such event to enhance global integrated surveillance for influenza and other respiratory viruses and boost health systems readiness to deal with them. HE stressed that this session comes in line with the health sector's ongoing efforts to prioritize prevention and safeguard public health, recognizing it as a national imperative to improve the quality of life and well-being.
Dr Al Rand highlighted that the seminar plays a crucial role in bolstering collective efforts to implement the National Communicable diseases prevention Policy, which serves as a multi-sectoral national framework aimed at combating communicable diseases and mitigating their impact on individuals and society. It also ensures a more effective and efficient utilization of national resources, thereby contributing to the development of the health system's response to respiratory diseases and strengthening potent surveillance mechanisms.
The presence of the United Arab Emirates in the global health sector highlights its strong commitment to promoting healthcare and community safety. Building international cooperation networks focused on combating endemic diseases enhances the UAE's role as a key player in this field.
WHO’s Dr Wenqing Zhang, head of the Global Influenza Prgramme, said “After more than 70 years, GISRS now encompasses over 160 institutions in 129 WHO Member States, including the United Arab Emirates. During this meeting, we will look at ways to further strengthen GISRS in addressing the global surveillance needs for influenza, SARS-CoV-2, MERS-CoV, RSV and other respiratory viruses of epidemic and pandemic potential. We thank the Abu Dhabi Public Health Centre for hosting this successful and meaningful event in the long run of GISRS, and look forward to continued collaboration in future”
In this context, the results derived from the consultation contribute to enhancing a shared understanding of global health challenges and promoting international cooperation in the field of infectious disease control. They further establish the UAE's role as a leader in health innovation and tackling global health challenges.
It is worth mentioning that Abu Dhabi has led global cities in various indicators related to dealing with (COVID-19). This includes handling from the initial response phase to recovery, surpassing the health, economic, and social repercussions of the virus. Since the beginning of the crisis, Abu Dhabi has worked proactively, aiming to ensure the health and safety of the community. Efforts persist in respiratory disease surveillance, including influenza, through continuous assessment of the health situation and the development of proactive plans to address pandemics.