Students from across the UAE gathered at NYU Abu Dhabi October 30-31 to brainstorm grassroots solutions to the pressing public health issue of obesity in children and adolescents. During the two-day Public Health Think Tank (PHTT) delegates from 10 universities worked collaboratively to plan a public health intervention strategy, with instruction and guidance from leading public health professionals.
In addition to NYUAD participants, students attended from Zayed University, Abu Dhabi University, American University in Sharjah, UAE University, Ras Al Khaimah Medical & Health Sciences University, Fatima College of Health Sciences, Dubai Medical College, Higher College of Technology, and Paris Sorbonne University Abu Dhabi.
Dr. Alexandra Dmitri, an NYUAD Career Development Center specialist who helped organize PHTT said, “The event is a unique initiative to have inter-university student collaboration. It is both an academic and a career education opportunity and gives participants the chance to network, whether it’s with other students who are passionate about solving issues relevant to the UAE or with experienced professionals. The majority of participants came from non public health backgrounds and were not aware of the various career options that public health has to offer.” She added, “Public health is one of the top government priorities in the UAE. Raising awareness among students is very important because they are the future of this country.”
Students divided into seven teams – one named after each Emirate – to research and present a proposal that addressed the issue of obesity. Each team consisted of five students from different universities.
Team “Umm Al Quwain” – with students from NYU Abu Dhabi, Fatima College of Health Sciences, Abu Dhabi University, and Dubai Medical College – took top honors for a proposed initiative titled “Health At Every Place,” which presented a strategy to enhance healthy eating in the UAE through better labelling and community education. The winning team will be allowed to apply for a grant of AED3,000 to implement their proposed project and will be connected with public health professionals to guide them through the process.
Other ideas included the implementation of mandatory after-school fitness programs, and an app that promotes physical activity and movement.
Students were judged by an accomplished panel of health practitioners, including Cheryl Healton, Dean and Professor at New York University College of Global Public Health; and Habiba Al Safar, Assistant Professor and Director of Khalifa University Center of Biotechnology.
During the weekend, students attended workshops on obesity and public health-related research to get a full understanding of the topic, and to develop a broader awareness of career opportunities in the public health sector. Last year, PHTT convened to tackle the tobacco crisis in the UAE.
To learn more about NYUAD Public Health Think Tank, visit http://2015.phtt.org/.