Environmental Risks to Public Health in the United Arab Emirates: A Quantitative Assessment and Strategic Plan

By Gibson, Jacqueline MacDonald; Farah, Zeinab S. | Environmental Health Perspectives, May 2012 | Go to article overview
Save to active project

Environmental Risks to Public Health in the United Arab Emirates: A Quantitative Assessment and Strategic Plan


Gibson, Jacqueline MacDonald, Farah, Zeinab S., Environmental Health Perspectives


BACKGROUND: Environmental risks to health in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) have shifted rapidly from infectious to noninfectious diseases as the nation has developed at an unprecedented rate. In response to public concerns over newly emerging environmental risks, the Environment Agency Abu Dhabi commissioned a multidisciplinary environmental health strategic planning project.

OBJECTIVES: In order to develop the environmental health strategic plan, we sought to quantify the illnesses and premature deaths in the UAE attributable to 14 environmental pollutant categories, prioritize these 14 risk factors, and identify interventions.

METHODS: We estimated the disease burden imposed by each risk factor using an attributable fraction approach, and we prioritized the risks using an empirically tested stakeholder engagement process. We then engaged government personnel, scientists, and other stakeholders to identify interventions.

RESULTS: The UAE's environmental disease burden is low by global standards. Ambient air pollution is the leading contributor to premature mortality [~ 650 annual deaths; 95% confidence interval (CI): 140, 1,400]. Risk factors leading to > 10,000 annual health care facility visits included occupational exposures, indoor air pollution, drinking water contamination, seafood contamination, and ambient air pollution. Among the 14 risks considered, on average, outdoor air pollution was ranked by the stakeholders as the highest priority (mean rank, 1.4; interquartile range, 1-2) and indoor air pollution as the second-highest priority (mean rank 3.3; interquartile range, 2-4). The resulting strategic plan identified 216 potential interventions for reducing environmental risks to health.

CONCLUSIONS: The strategic planning exercise described here provides a framework for systematically deciding how to invest public funds to maximize expected returns in environmental health, where returns are measured in terms of reductions in a population's environmental burden of disease.

KEY WORDS: environmental burden of disease, environmental priorities, risk assessment, strategic planning. Environ Health Perspect 120:681-686 (2012). http://dx.doi.org/10.1289/ehp.1104064 [Online 22 February 2012]

The United Arab Emirates (UAE) has modernized more rapidly than any nation in world history. In the 40 years since its founding, the UAE has grown from a primarily nomadic and subsistence fishing population of < 400,000 to a multicultural population of > 4.4 million with a diverse industrial base (Cassen 1978; United Nations 2007). It is home to two international urban centers, Dubai and Abu Dhabi, the latter of which is now, by some measures, the world's wealthiest city (Gimbel 2007). This rapid development has been made possible by oil exports: The UAE owns approximately 8% of the world's remaining oil reserves, most contained in the emirate of Abu Dhabi, the largest of the UAE's seven emirates (U.S. Energy Information Administration 2010). With 97.8 billion barrels of proven reserves (five times the remaining U.S. supply), the UAE ranks sixth among all countries in future oil production potential (U.S. Energy Information Administration 2009, 2010).

The UAE's rapid modernization has brought remarkable advancements in public health. For example, during 1970-1975, female life expectancy averaged 46.5 years (Cassen 1978); by 2005-2010 it had increased by > 75%, to 81.5 years--higher than that in the United States (United Nations 2007). However, modernization also has brought new risks. As infectious disease rates have declined, disease patterns have shifted to resemble those in developed countries, with increases in non-infectious conditions such as cardiovascular diseases, cancer, and diabetes. Some of this disease burden may he attributable to environmental pollution that has accompanied the nation's economic growth. Fear about environmental risk factors (whether or not such fear is warranted on technical grounds) is increasing, as evidenced by frequent reporting on environmental risks in the local news media, including headline news stories that have raised alarms.

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
Loading One moment ...
Project items
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited article

Environmental Risks to Public Health in the United Arab Emirates: A Quantitative Assessment and Strategic Plan
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

While we understand printed pages are helpful to our users, this limitation is necessary to help protect our publishers' copyrighted material and prevent its unlawful distribution. We are sorry for any inconvenience.
Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.

Are you sure you want to delete this highlight?