Student-Led Public Health Think Tank Aims to Improve Cardiovascular Health in the UAE

NYU Abu Dhabi’s fifth annual Public Health Think Tank brings together students from across the UAE to address a critical health issue

Press Release

More than 50 participants from 9 universities across the UAE came together on Saturday to develop public health interventions aimed at improving the conditions of cardiovascular health in the UAE. 

In preparation for the fifth annual Public Health Think Tank (PHTT) event, conference organizers highlighted a study conducted by Aster Hospitals in Dubai, Coronary Artery Disease (CAD), which shows that cardiovascular disease in which plaque builds up in the arteries, is affecting a younger age group in the UAE compared to the rest of the world, particularly among expatriates

Nine teams were divided and tasked with creating a public health intervention proposal they believe will contribute effectively towards addressing cardiovascular health in the UAE. The teams also had to take into account the unique diversity of the UAE population, with 85% being non-nationals, and cater  to the specific social, economic, and health needs of the younger expatriate demographic.

Team Fujairah won first place at PHTT 2018 for their proposal “Tarabut: A peer to peer education program” which focuses on discussion based peer-to-peer health education workshops utilizing the existing framework of schools in Abu Dhabi.

Members of the winning team, including NYUAD students Rama Alhariri and Sara Booth (Class of ?), are eligible to receive a grant of AED 3,000 along with professional support from public health professionals to guide them toward the successful implementation of their proposal.

Team Dubai won Honorable Mention at PHTT 2018 for their proposal “Heart-to-Heart” which aims to reduce costs and improve the healthcare system by reducing the prevalence of cardiovascular diseases, obesity, and diabetes by implementing a month-long pilot program with the target of reducing cardiovascular risk factors of the target population through campaigns and community engagements.

NYUAD Assistant Director for Tobacco Research at the Public Health Research Center Andrea Leinberger-Jabari said:  "The students who participate do a fantastic job of coming up with some really innovative and thoughtful public health interventions. Every year I have been involved with this conference I become more excited about the future of public health."

A student-led, collaborative, interdisciplinary, and locally engaged initiative, PHTT is designed to catalyze public health innovation in the UAE. Public Health Think Tank chair and NYUAD Class of 2020 student Athena Ai Chun Thomas said: “Students come together from a wide range of universities and academic backgrounds, and it was amazing to watch them work together to develop an intervention proposal in such a short amount of time. The excitement was palpable. My favorite part of the PHTT is that it allows students from any academic background the chance to become involved in public health issues, engaging them in their communities’ problems and allowing them to take charge of their own health.”

Participants at the fifth Public Health Think Tank at NYUAD heard from public health practitioners and research professionals on the historic, national, and international context of the issue. Keynote speakers included the Director of the Public Health Division from the Department of Health Dr. Omniyat Al Hajeri, Public Health Physician and Epidemiologist Dr. Cother Hajat, Consultant Physician and Chief Cardiologist at Dubai Health Authority Dr. Afzalhussein Yusufali, and NYUAD Consultant Family Physician at the Health and Wellness Center Dr. Khalid Malik.

Participating universities included: NYUAD, Al Ain University of Science and Technology, Mohammed Bin Rashid University of Medicine and Health Sciences, Canadian University Dubai, RAK Medical and Health Sciences University, Khalifa University, Mohammed Bin Rashid University College of Medicine, University of Sharjah, and Gulf Medical University.

PHTT 2018 was co-directed by NYUAD students Athena Thomas, Fatima Alaydaroos, Jessica Molina, Hafsa Ahmed, and Kai-Wen Yang.

For more information about PHTT, and this year's proposals, please visit

About NYU Abu Dhabi

NYU Abu Dhabi is the first comprehensive liberal arts and research campus in the Middle East to be operated abroad by a major American research university. NYU Abu Dhabi has integrated a highly selective undergraduate curriculum across the disciplines with a world center for advanced research and scholarship. The university enables its students in the sciences, engineering, social sciences, humanities, and arts to succeed in an increasingly interdependent world and advance cooperation and progress on humanity’s shared challenges. NYU Abu Dhabi’s high-achieving students have come from over 115 countries and speak over 115 languages. Together, NYU's campuses in New York, Abu Dhabi, and Shanghai form the backbone of a unique global university, giving faculty and students opportunities to experience varied learning environments and immersion in other cultures at one or more of the numerous study-abroad sites NYU maintains on six continents.