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CommunityHealthHow to get inside Expo 2020’s Health and Wellness Week

Expo 2020’s Health and Wellness Week, running until February 2 2022, welcomes a range of international speakers and industry experts to Dubai to share their thoughts on the global health landscape.  The event, held in association with the Mohammed Bin Rashid University of Medicine and Health Sciences (MBRU) and the World Health Organization (WHO), offers a series of sessions and workshops under three key themes. “Strike a balance” explores how equal worth can be given...
Mark LomasJanuary 31, 202213 min
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Dubai expo health and wellnessDUBAI, 07 November 2021. Yoga at The Water Feature, Expo 2020 Dubai. (Photo by Walaa Alshaer/Expo 2020 Dubai)

Expo 2020’s Health and Wellness Week, running until February 2 2022, welcomes a range of international speakers and industry experts to Dubai to share their thoughts on the global health landscape. 

The event, held in association with the Mohammed Bin Rashid University of Medicine and Health Sciences (MBRU) and the World Health Organization (WHO), offers a series of sessions and workshops under three key themes. “Strike a balance” explores how equal worth can be given to mental and physical wellness in caregiving, while “Create a culture of care” acknowledges the role communities have in improving health. “Rise to the Challenge” addresses how technology can boost access to healthcare. 

Livehealthy has picked out some of the highlights of the Expo 2020 Health and Wellness Week, with many sessions and workshops available to watch online live or via recording. 

Celebrating Unsung Heroes 

The Expo 2020 event opened on Thursday In the Terra Auditorium with a session focusing on how the Covid-19 pandemic thrust key workers into the global spotlight, and around the world people publicly showed their appreciation for those who had for too long flown under the radar. Hosted by former BBC and Sky News Arabia journalist Jessy Murr, it explored some of the heroic stories of giving that characterized the pandemic. 

Dairo Vargas, Colombian contemporary artist and founder of The Art Listens was on hand to share his experiences. Vargas’ initiative uses art as a starting point for expression and conversations around mental health, something that has been of particular importance during the pandemic. His projects have previously attracted the attention of the WHO, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and record-breaking Olympic swimmer Michael Phelps. 

Art is a global language and all you need is a pencil and paper,” Vargas told Livehealthy. “When we are younger it is the first way most of us express ourselves and we draw all kinds of things. 

“As adults we are often not well-connected to our emotions and art can help us with that, to express more easily how we feel like we do when we are children — with freedom. It helps us try to understand fear, love, sadness in a way that words sometimes cannot. This has been important, especially during the last two years.” 

Breaking Barriers through Digital Medicine

Technology is being used around the world to break down the stigma of mental health and connect those suffering with the support they need. A trio of entrepreneurs who sought to create products to help people with their mental health gathered on Thursday to talk about why such an approach is vital in 2022. 

The panel discussion brought together Basim Al-Beladi, founder of the Saudi app Labayh, which  provides digitalized solutions for individuals who require mental health support, Shezlong CEO Mohamed Alaa, whose Egypt-based website and app offers people a safe pathway to reach out for therapy, and Kerstyn Comley of UK app MeeTwo, which focuses on alleviating anxiety among teenagers and young people. 

Arab and Muslim Women in Health

Arab women have played an integral role in the history of medicine. From pioneers like Rufaidah Al-Aslamiah, whose “tent of Rufaidah” is regarded as the first ‘clinic’ in the Islamic era, to the new booming FemTech industry, Arab women have been responsible for many key developments. FemTech — which covers everything from simple apps tracking periods to more complex solutions to postpartum issues and disease management — is a multi-billion-dollar industry and the MENA region accounts for six percent of it worldwide. This session held at the Women’s Pavilion Majlis examined how female medical professionals in the Arab and Islamic world could be better credited for their historic roles and how contemporary successes can be better celebrated. 

Healthier World, Healthier People

In 2015, diseases caused by air, water and soil pollution were responsible for 15 percent of all global deaths — more than smoking, hunger, natural disasters, war or malaria. Climate-related events have accelerated in number, as well as in impact, and that means that architecture and urban planning are playing an increasingly important role in how we deal with the world’s climate crisis.

With poorer communities too often on the frontline of climate change, this Sunday session at Terra — The Sustainability Pavilion — explored how infrastructure changes can serve to better protect people and what some of those promising innovations look like today. It also asks who — whether governments, NGOs, city councils or the private sector — is ultimately responsible for initiating these solutions. 

Preventing and preparing to beat future pandemics

This series of sessions, to be held from 2-4pm Monday January 31 2022, will reflect on the different responses to the current pandemic and look ahead to how the handling of future pandemics may differ. A pandemic emergence simulation exercise — led by Dr Richard Brennan, the Regional Emergency Director of WHO EMRO (Eastern Mediterranean) — will give participants a glimpse into the fast-paced world of pandemic response in a fictional setting. 

Elsewhere, Aidan O’Leary, director of the Global Polio Eradication Initiative, and Dr Sarthak Das, CEO of the Asia Pacific Leaders Malaria Alliance, will highlight existing success stories around fighting diseases, and try to identify the tools required to build durable health systems and prevent the spread of future pandemics. 

Health and Wellness Business Forum

A full-day event on Tuesday, February 1 2022 (8am to 4.30pm, DEC Hall 1A South) with a range of different sessions, the Health and Wellness Business Forum aims to tackle big-picture questions around how to achieve global equity in healthcare systems, as well as delving into topics like health and medical tourism, and the challenges of hosting mega events during the pandemic. 

One of the stand-out sessions at the Expo 2020’s roster of events should be with Ireland’s Minister of Health Stephen Donnelly and Dr Jemilah Mahmood, Public Health advisor to the Prime Minister of Malaysia, who will be among those discussing how to build a culture of health in workplaces, what kinds of measures business can implement to improve the health of their employees and how lifestyle technologies can be integrated into public policy.

World Majlis healthy agenda

Expo 2020’s World Majlis program brings together international experts for a wide-ranging discussion on a range of topics, all available to be watched via recording.

• In Designing Spaces to Heal Our Planet (Sunday, January 30, 4-6pm) experts gather to ask, in the face of climate change, about the role of architecture and urban planning in helping restore health of communities and planet.

At the Speed of Life (Tuesday, February 1, 4-6pm) explores the world of medical innovation, and how across all areas of health, technologies from artificial intelligence to 3D printing, genomics and robotics are advancing exponentially.

A Good Place to Work: Balancing Personal and Professional Lives (Wednesday, February 2, 11-12.30pm) is a youth-driven discussion on the future of workplaces and people’s changing expectations for working life.

Mark Lomas

Mark is a Dubai-based writer who has couch-surfed through Ukraine, broken bread with football fans in Basra, and appeared on a boxing reality TV show in the UAE – all in pursuit of a good story. Or at least an average anecdote.

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