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Faculty Advisor

Dr. Iain Blair

Defense Date

6 December 2015


An optimal functioning health system delivers quality, timely, and efficient services to all individuals in a

convenient and accessible location. The United Arab Emirates (UAE) is a rapidly developing country hosting

a multinational population with emerging health issues and needs that are influencing the growth and

direction of the health system. This study offers a comprehensive review and appraisal of the structure

and function of the UAE health system using the Health Systems in Transition (HiT) framework.

A two-stage mixed-methods research design was used; stage one, included completing each chapter of

the HiT framework using published and unpublished data; stage two entailed convening three focus group

discussions with participants selected from key stakeholder groups including managers, service providers,

and patients of the UAE health system to further explore the health system challenges and gaps identified

after completing the HiT. Focus group discussions were taped, transcribed verbatim, and thematically


Study findings revealed that the UAE health system includes the majority of the World Health Organization’s

components of a well-functioning health system. Specifically, governmental leaders are committed to good

health and service, a wide range of accredited health care services are available, the UAE population has

universal healthcare coverage, and the system is well-resourced in terms of infrastructure, financing, and

human resources. However, the study highlighted a number of challenges and potential areas of health

reform including: health sector fragmentation; rising costs and uncertain outcomes; proper regulation of

the fast expanding private sector; shortage of national health human resources coupled with difficulty

in retaining and supporting career advancement of expatriate human resources; population growth and

increased levels of chronic disease risk factors.

The UAE health system has developed on an impressive trajectory since the country’s formation in 1971.

Despite significant achievements, several challenges have emerged affecting the costs and quality of health

services. Recommended solutions to address such challenges include setting up independent national-level

institutes for healthcare planning, improvement, quality and outcomes monitoring, enhancing workforce

planning, and strengthening public health. In addition, there is a need to improve the integration between

health systems and raise levels of health literacy in the population. Finally, the study recommends setting

up national academic centers of excellence to avoid duplication and ensure high quality services. The

study offers a valuable contribution to the health systems research in the UAE and allows international

comparisons and benchmarking with other countries.



Institute of Public Health

College of Medicine and Health Sciences

Apr 27, 2020