Research

The Institute of Public Health (IPH) has a mission to train health professionals to protect and improve the health of the population of the United Arab Emirates, with special reference to the vulnerable. A key element in achieving our Institute's mission is providing good information about the main threats to health, particularly lifestyle-related chronic diseases, injury, and infectious diseases. This is the main thrust of our research initiatives. IPH  research expertise includes Epidemiology, Public Health, Occupational Health and Biostatistics. Our multidisciplinary staff are currently involved in the following research areas, with special emphasis on health issues of importance to the UAE:

General Public Health Research: Surveys for infectious diseases include HIV/AIDS prevention, and occupational blood-born diseases. Health surveys to assess awareness about breast cancer, breast and other infant feeding, antenatal care, school hygiene, premarital screening, oral contraceptives, alternative medicine, folic acid intake during pregnancy, smoking hazards, healthy diet and physical activity. Health care administration research includes patients' satisfaction with primary health care services, perinatal services. and doctor-patient relationship.

Chronic Diseases Prevention Research: Incidence, prevalence and risk factors analysis of asthma, obesity, osteoporosis, anemia, ischemic heart disease, stroke, hypertension, diabetes mellitus and DM complications.

Injury Prevention Research: Incidence and risk factor research of school related traffic injury, home injury, road crashes and use of safety belts, and drowning.

Occupational and Environmental Health Research: IPH was recently involved in a 1 million USD project to carry out a 600-household field epidemiology survey on Environment and Health.  This was done jointly with collaborators from the Gillings School of Public Health at North Carolina University, Chapel Hill (UNC). The source of funding was the Environment Agency of Abu Dhabi (EAD).  The field study was part of a larger project involving UNC, RAND Corporation, and our IPH research partners.

The Health Authority of Abu Dhabi (HAAD) also awarded a research grant to our Institute for developing guidelines on preventing heat stress. This is an occupational and environmental health issue particularly relevant to the desert climate in the UAE and the surrounding region. 

Chronic Diseases Prevention Research: Incidence, prevalence and risk factors analysis of asthma, obesity, osteoporosis, anemia, ischemic heart disease, stroke, hypertension, diabetes mellitus and its complications.

Injury Prevention Research: IPH participated in the a UAEU-Health Authority of Abu Dhabi research project on road traffic accidents – a major cause of mortality in the UAE.  Our Institute also conducts research on incidence and risk factor analysis of school related traffic injury, home injury, road crashes and use of safety belts, and drowning.

Biostatistics: Our team of statisticians/epidemiologists provides advice on study design and statistical analyses to researchers at the College of Medicine and to external organizations including government departments and industry.

Research Interests of Faculty and Staff of the IPH are:

Prof Tar-Ching Aw: US-Board certified in occupational medicine. He has a special interest in occupational toxicology, occupational risks to health-care workers, and training and education. Professor Aw is a member of the International Advisory board for several journals, including ‘Occupational Medicine (Oxford Journals)’, and ‘Safety and Health at Work’. He is also a member of the UK Health and Safety Executive’s working group on action to control chemicals (WATCH). 

Prof Nico Nagelkerke: Senior Biostatistician with a special interest in statistical methodology and infectious disease modeling. Prof Nagelkerke has provided input in biostatistics to several projects which resulted in peer reviewed publications during 2011.

Dr Fatma Al-Maskari: Public health physician and epidemiologist with an interest in non-communicable chronic diseases epidemiology and prevention, lifestyle and health and evidence-based medicine. Dr Al-Maskari is one of the investigators collaborating with the Gillings School of Public Health at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill (UNC) and the Environment Agency of UAE in developing a National Strategy for Environment & Health in the UAE.

Dr Iain Blair: Public health consultant with a background in UK health protection. He has published articles on the surveillance and control of infectious diseases and has co-authored a textbook on health protection and several book chapters. His current research projects include a qualitative study of the effect of chronic illness on Emirati families.

Dr Michal Grivna: Public health specialist physician with a special interest in child injury control, school and community safety, bicycle-related and playground injuries and more recently school traffic safety, trauma registration and HIV/AIDS prevention in the UAE. He is a founding member of the European Child Safety Alliance and the Centre for Childhood Injury Epidemiology and Prevention in the Czech Republic. Dr Grivna is a leading figure in the promotion and implementation of "WHO - Safe Community Programs".

Dr Syed Shah: Chronic Disease Epidemiologist with research interests in epidemiology of cardiovascular disease, work-related injuries and mental health. His recent international research project is on cardio-vascular risk factors in children in Pakistan, Malaysia, and the UAE.

Dr Mohamud Sheek-Hussein: Public health physician and epidemiologist with an interest in infectious diseases and public health services. Dr Sheek-Hussein is previously from the Preventive Medicine Department of the UAE Ministry of Health and lately of the Health Authority of Abu Dhabi (HAAD).

Dr Raghib Ali: Clinical epidemiologist with research interests in the epidemiology of non-communicable diseases (particularly cancer), clinical trials, and global health.

Dr Daniel Handysides: is a health educator trained at Loma Linda University, specializing in behavior change and risk perceptions. He has a strong background in program development and evaluation. His research interests surround high risk behaviors and the perceptions individuals hold towards health. Currently he is working in partnership with UAEU and the International Commission for the Prevention of Alcoholism and Drug Dependancy (ICPA) on smoking issues within UAE.

Dr Tom Loney: Occupational and environmental health scientist with a special interest in human performance optimization of personnel employed in challenging environments, exercise prescription for public health, and measurement issues related to human physiological monitoring.

Dr John Schneider: Occupational health physician. His main research interests are occupational rehabilitation, organization and planning of occupational health services in rural and remote work sites, work in hot environments, and impairment assessment at the workplace.

Ms Rana Kurdi: Research Specialist in basic science and public health research with a Masters degree in Public Health, Epidemiology and Biostatistics.

Dr Mohamed El-Sadig: Epidemiologist and health economist, with special interest in traffic safety and non-communicable diseases. He was a Research Director of the UAE Indoor Air, Health & Nutrition Study conducted by our department and the University of North Carolina.
 

In 2011, the Institute of Public Health continued to build on our good track record in research, and on developing global links with international academic colleagues. Research successes of the Institute included receipt of a number of large project grants following competitive bids, securing continuation of research funding from grant-awarding bodies, and an increase in the number of publications by our staff. Our staff numbers have expanded with the hire of three new assistant professors from the UK, USA and the UAE. The arrival of Drs Raghib Ali, Tom Loney and Daniel Handysides will strengthen our research efforts in global health, occupational and environmental health and health promotion and prevention. Dr Iain Blair was confirmed as director of our global health institute (now the Zayed Center for Global Health), and several activities are already being planned for 2012 in regards to global health.

Dr John Schneider worked closely with the Health Authority of Abu Dhabi (HAAD) on translating research findings from his research on exposure to heat, into practical guidance for the workforce of the UAE. Guidance leaflets on dealing with exposure to heat especially in the summer months (coinciding with Ramadan in 2011 and also in 2012) was launched by HAAD at several road shows and campaigns for UAE workers and employers.

Dr Michael Grivna helped Dubai Health Authority (DHA) in preparing an Injury prevention network. His research projects on injuries received best oral presentation award and best poster award at two international conferences on trauma. The occupational medicine textbook “Hunter’s Diseases of Occupations, 10th edition”, co-edited by Professor Aw and his colleagues was awarded First prize by the British Medical Association in their 2011 round of the Books on Medicine category (Patient Information Awards, 2011).

The Institute, and in particular Professor Nico Nagelkerke, continues to receive requests from colleagues within the College of Medicine and external organisations e.g. hospitals, health authorities, and other agencies for statistical support and advice. There was a substantial increase in the number of in-house and external courses on statistics and epidemiology delivered by our staff in 2011. This is especially with the launch of several masters and doctoral level degrees by other College departments requiring modules on research methods, critical appraisal, and biostatistics. Demand for training in occupational medicine has also accelerated following the designation of FMHS as an overseas exam centre for the Faculty of Occupational Medicine, Royal College of Physicians of Ireland (FOM). We conducted several courses on aspects of occupational health during the year. This attracted participants from the region (UAE, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia) and beyond (Pakistan, Nigeria, Australia). The 2nd conferment ceremony of the FOM in the UAE was held in Al-Ain in May, 2011 for new licentiates, members, and fellows (see photos below).
[place photos on next page here]

Our epidemiologists (Drs Syed Shah, Fatma Al-Maskari, Mohamud Sheek-Hussein) worked on several existing and new grants for diabetes, cardio-vascular diseases, infections, and other chronic diseases. Dr Shah supervised a visiting Fulbright scholar (Matthew Skerritt) from the US. IPH also hosted a Masters student (Lilian Ilesanmi-Oyelere) from the University of Canterbury, New Zealand.

International links were strengthened following the signing of an MOU (Memorandum of understanding) with the National University of Malaysia. This adds to previous MOUs signed with the University of Malaya, the FOM (Ireland), and locally with health authorities (Abu Dhabi and Dubai) and health care providers (SEHA). The international MOUs have led to an exchange of staff and students, participation as external examiners, and delivery of training. Following the MOUs, we placed several of our medical students for elective postings in Dublin and in Kuala Lumpur.

An exciting new initiative in 2011 followed the visit of Dr Peter Landless, Executive Director of the International Commission for the Prevention of Smoking and drug dependency (ICPA), to our department. Dr Landless and ICPA agreed to sponsor a health promotion project in our department. This led to the arrival of Dr Daniel Handysides from Loma Linda University to conduct research and develop programs for smoking cessation.

There were several distinguished visitors to our Institute last year. They delivered presentations on topics of recent research interest ranging from public health practice to occupational medicine. The visitors included:
a) Dr Ali Hasan Al Marzooqi, Dubai Health Authority
b) Dr Alex Finlayson, Oxford University
c) Professor David Whitworth, RCSI-Medical University of Bahrain
d) Professor David Sheehan, University of South Florida
e) Dr Jennifer Lim, University of Leeds
f) Professor Markku Sainio, Finnish Institute of Occupational Health
g) Dr Mohammad Al Redha, Dubai Health Authority
h) a team from the Children’s National Medical Center, Washington DC, and students from Harvard and the American University in Dubai
 

An encouraging trend is the enthusiasm of our FMHS medical students to develop and present research protocols to their colleagues and to the college. Producing a sound research protocol is an important component of their ‘senior clerkship’ and there is usually a healthy debate and robust defence of their proposals at the end of their time with our Institute.


 
Students and staff at the Institute of Public Health Senior Clerkship Project Presentations

The research efforts of IPH would have been difficult without the help of our research officers and administrative staff. They are an integral part of our research teams, and provide help especially with logistical and procedural aspects of research projects. Their key contributions are assistance with ethical clearance, translation of questionnaires into Arabic, recruitment and training of field investigators, and facilitating links with government departments. The IPH acknowledges their support and the valuable output from the collaborative efforts with our academic staff in regards to research.