New York University Abu Dhabi (NYUAD), in collaboration with Tamkeen, have announced the results of the first phase of the UAE Healthy Future Study (UAEHFS), which has recruited almost 15,000 participants. The study aims to determine how the health of UAE Nationals is affected by their lifestyle, environment and genes, focusing on risk factors related to obesity, diabetes and heart disease.

The UAEHFS has been recruiting participants since 2016 and received approval from the Department of Health – Abu Dhabi, Dubai Health Authority, and the Ministry of Health and Prevention to conduct the research.

This collaborative study has advanced the cooperation between healthcare organisations and academic institutions in the UAE. The efforts have led to a raft of new measurable achievements including 47 articles in peer-reviewed international journals over the past seven years. The study has further contributed to significant advances to the national capacity in public health and contributed in establishing regulations and research in this area – including contributions towards COVID-19.

The event to mark the conclusion of phase one and the inauguration of phase two was attended by dignitaries including Her Excellency Omniyat Al Hajri, Executive Director of the Community Health Sector of the ADPHC, Major General Thani Buti Al Shamsi from Abu Dhabi Police and John Tate, CEO of Tamkeen.

Phase two of the study aims to carry out an analysis of the total baseline data to identify additional physiological, genetic, and microbiome biomarkers and risk factors for diabetes, obesity, cardiovascular diseases, and relevant non-communicable disorders. Recall and collect data from 5,000 participants, who joined the study from 2014-2018, collect more non-invasive clinical phenotype data including brain and abdominal imaging (MRI), echocardiography (ECG), stress test, 24-hour glucose, blood pressure and physical activity monitoring.

Mariët Westermann, Vice Chancellor of NYUAD, said: “The UAE Healthy Future Study brings together some of the best scientists and physicians across major academic and healthcare institutions in the country in line with the UAE’s innovation strategy. This strong collaboration has made it possible for researchers and policymakers to lay the groundwork for a healthier society for generations to come. We are grateful for the support of our strategic partners including the Department of Health – Abu Dhabi, Dubai Health Authority, and the Ministry of Health and Prevention, and we thank all of our partner organisations and academic institutions for their major contributions.”

Sehamuddin Galadari, Senior Vice Provost of Research and Managing Director of the NYUAD Research Institute, said: “We are proud to celebrate the completion of phase one of the study, which focused on collaboration, recruitment and capacity building. This has seen us help establish NYUAD as a centre of excellence for population health research in the region, while its innovation and impact are being recognised nationally and internationally. We take this opportunity to recognise the faculty, physicians, the staff and our consortium partners who have made exceptional contributions to the success of the UAEHFS. We acknowledge our talented team of young scientists, most of whom are Emiratis, who have not only made substantial contributions to the study but also managed to obtain graduate degrees using data from the UAEHFS. This demonstrates the value of national capacity building in public health, and I am glad that the NYUAD Research Institute is supporting this.”

Professor Raghib Ali, Centre Director and Principal Investigator of the UAEHFS, Youssef Idaghdour, Co-Director of Public Health Research Centre, and Sehamuddin Galadari shared insights and highlighted achievements from phase one of the study.