The 2014 Public Health Think Tank Conference focused on the pressing tobacco health crisis in the UAE. The conference sought to inspire the 29 attending delegates to find novel and innovative strategies for tackling the high incidence of tobacco use and addiction in the UAE. The students worked in teams from different universities to construct locally oriented public health initiatives that included medical, economic and intervention-based approaches. For two days, the delegates were immersed in a student-led, interdisciplinary and collaborative environment where they participated in workshops and information sessions to attain the tools they needed to create feasible and innovative initiatives.
By the end of the inaugural conference, each team had formulated an action plan for implementing their anti-tobacco initiatives, and presented their proposal to a panel of judges comprised of distinguished public health and smoking intervention leaders in the UAE. The winning team, Team Gazelle, constructed an arts-based action plan that aimed to bring together school students to create theater productions targeted at their parents to prevent adult smoking. By creating a theater piece to discourage tobacco use amongst adults, the participating students would also internalize the messages themselves, thereby reducing the likelihood of them becoming smokers themselves. As the winning team, they became eligible for a grant to implement their idea in the UAE.
The conference featured several distinguished experts in public health and medicine, who spoke about their research and experiences with malignant tobacco use in the UAE and beyond. Among the speakers were Dr. Scott Sherman, Associate Professor of Medicine at NYU Langone and Principal Investigator at NYUAD Public Health Research Center, Dr. Cheryl Healton, The Director of NYU Global Institute of Public Health and the Dean of Global Public Health at NYU and Saba Brelvi, who worked as a program director at the California Wellness Foundation for nine years. Goffredo Puccetti, a visual designer and NYUAD Visiting Assistant Professor of Visual Arts, spoke about key presentation and aesthetic representation techniques to help delegates create engaging proposals for their devised initiatives.
More information about the 2014 conference is available on its website.