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Vitamin D Conference – Abu Dhabi – March 2013

2nd annual conference in UAE: Opening Speech by His Excellency

Nahayan Mabarak Al- Nahayan,
Minister of Culture, Youth & Community Development, U.A.E.
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His Excellency Sheikh Nahayan Mabarak Al- Nahayan, Minister of Culture, Youth & Community Development, U.A.E. and
Dr. Afrozul Haq, Chairman of the Vitamin D Deficiency Conference.

Good morning, Ladies and Gentlemen:
I am very pleased to join you this morning for the Second International Vitamin D Deficiency Conference.
The number of eminent participants from the UAE, the region and the world confirms the importance of this topic.
I welcome all of you, and I trust that you will find the sessions to be both productive and professionally satisfying.

I am delighted to note that Sheikh Khalifa Medical City continues to advance its important mission of promoting medical research and continuing medical education in Abu Dhabi and the United Arab Emirates. I congratulate both the Scientific Committee and the Organizing Committee and thank Dr. Afrozul Haq and the many hardworking individuals who planned this conference. And I applaud all of you for devoting your time and taking medical research and professional development seriously.

Physicians at Sheikh Khalifa Medical City advance their discipline and share with us in Abu Dhabi an ardent sense of social responsibility. Under the wise leadership of the president, His Highness Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al-Nahayan, and with the guidance and strong support of Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al-Nahayan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and the Deputy Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces, Abu Dhabi is developing a superb health care system that is responsive to the needs of its citizens and residents. Precisely focused on diagnosis, treatment, and public education, the Abu Dhabi health care system is committed to having the most advanced technologies, to detecting diseases as early as possible, and to implementing the most effective treatments and cures. The city has developed into a regional center for health care, innovation, scientific research, and technological applications.

Ladies and Gentlemen:
When I began to think about my brief remarks to your conference, I was surprised to learn that Vitamin D deficiency is a global concern. I was also surprised that we, in the UAE and in the Middle East region share with the world-wide health care community the challenges presented by the deficiency in Vitamin D among the majority of the population. I learned that Vitamin D deficiency is linked to many diseases, including bone fractures, cancer, diabetes, depression, obesity, immune system malfunction, and heart disease. It also became apparent to me the lack of awareness among the public about the dimensions and magnitude of the problem. The absence of original scientific research relevant to our region, in particular, hampers efforts to publicize the problem and to craft relevant initiatives.

I now feel that I can make some general remarks as a layman with a new interest in the subject:

First, there is not enough knowledge among the general population of the importance of Vitamin D to general health and wellness. There is no sufficient awareness that sunlight exposure is its main source, and that genetic traits, skin color, dietary habits, and even clothing people wear are all factors that influence vitamin D levels in the body. Vitamin D deficiencies are also related to our modern lifestyle. We exercise far too little. The walk to our vehicles is rarely long. Our exposure to the sun is limited.

If all of this is true, then an obvious and effective strategy is education and awareness. We must identify and understand the wide range of risk factors that lead to Vitamin D deficiency. Physicians must embrace patient education as a key part of their role. We must form partnerships between hospitals, health workers, colleges of medicine, and community organizations to develop effective public education campaigns. It is a critical challenge for you who work in the field to determine strategies to motivate people to learn about the importance of maintaining appropriate levels of Vitamin D in their bodies and to pursue appropriate preventive behaviors.

Second, I wish I could quote you exact figures about the impact of Vitamin D deficiency on the health of the population in our country and the region.
But we don’t have accurate data! We don’t know

  • the number of patients,
  • how many of them suffer serious complications,
  • how many of these complications can be prevented, and
  • how many people have a deficiency and don’t know it.

This lack of data and research in the region, points to the urgent need for a comprehensive national and regional strategy for dealing with this issue as a national health priority. Such a national strategy must help individuals to better manage their health and to take more control over their lives.

Third, we need to recognize that nations all over the world share in this challenge, and that we can learn from successful experiences everywhere.
We must all recognize the international need to cooperate, to share research, to engage in joint ventures, and to promote global understanding.

Finally, and most importantly, we need a strategy that promotes healthy living.
A sedentary lifestyle contributes significantly to Vitamin D deficiency.
The prevention, care and treatment of vitamin D deficiency are all very clear; and so we must increase our efforts to educate and encourage people to take responsibility for their own health.

And yes, we need a strategy that encourages the continued collection and analysis of data and commits to research and development.

Ladies and Gentlemen, this conference provides you a vitally important forum for learning, collaboration, problem-solving, and professional development. I hope that the conference will communicate useful knowledge, inspire new ideas, and lead to strategic and tactical plans of action that will help solve the problems associated with Vitamin D deficiency.
My best wishes for a successful conference.
Thank you.


See also VitaminDWiki


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