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Biobank drive a step forward for healthcare.

Qatar Biobank, an innovative drive to collect and archive the medical records of 60,000 residents is a step forward in the move to improve healthcare in Qatar. Established as a centre within the Qatar Foundation's Biomedical Research Institute, and run in partnership with the Supreme Council of Health, Hamad Medical Corporation and leading scientists from Imperial College London, the Biobank will ultimately make research possible through its collection of samples and information on health and lifestyle in the country. According to the Economic Intelligence Unit (EIU), the Gulf Co-operation Council (GCC) population reached 45mn in 2010 and is forecast to reach close to 57mn by 2015. Healthcare has become a vital sector in the GCC countries, especially in view of the drastic lifestyle changes in the pre- and post-oil discovery era. Based largely on the social welfare model, government-run systems in the Gulf are having to deal with large numbers of patients suffering from non-communicable diseases such as diabetes, cardiovascular ailments and cancer. The increased traffic has made the once-common centralised hospital module almost unworkable. As more people are left waiting for medical attention in the regular stream of healthcare, some have taken to bypassing it to use Emergency rooms. A report by Deloitte Middle East states that expenditure on healthcare in the GCC grew by around 14% to reach over $34bn in 2009, of which the public sector contributed 70%. But despite a relatively high level of public spending, expenditure as a percentage of GDP stood at 3.5% only, far below that of developed economies and the world average of 10%. In addition, GCC states lag behind developed countries in bed count. The bed density in the GCC is currently at 1.8 beds per thousand, as compared with 3.1% in the US, 8.2% in Germany and a staggering 13.7% in Japan. This is where the private healthcare providers have earned an opportunity to fill the gap. In a country-wise break-up of the healthcare sector in the GCC, the Deloitte report mentions that the Qatar government has taken further steps to widen the participation of private healthcare in the country. A national health insurance scheme within the next three years under the National Health Strategy (NHS) 2011-16 to reduce dependence on public funds for healthcare is on the cards. In the 2011-12 budget, QR8.8bn was allocated for health projects and services by the government of Qatar. As in any partnership, concerns will exist over the efficacy of the role of each side. Private health clinics cannot function without the profit motive; but they should be able to assess the needs of all sections of the population of Qatar, and offer treatment accordingly. The Biobank's data, for instance, could prove to be an invaluable research tool in the hands of both private and public enterprise -- it could also streamline the procedure of getting timely medical assistance.

Gulf Times Newspaper 2013

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Publication:Gulf Times (Doha, Qatar)
Geographic Code:7QATA
Date:Mar 1, 2013
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