The Conference: Student-Led Interventions

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The New York University Abu Dhabi Public Health Think Tank is a collaborative, interdisciplinary and locally engaged initiative, designed to catalyze public health innovation in and beyond the United Arab Emirates.

The 2015 NYUAD Public Health Think Tank will focus on obesity, possibly the most pressing public health issue in the UAE today. The obesity rate in the UAE is double the world average, according to a disease study report. More than 2.1 billion people – close to 30 per cent of the global population – are overweight or obese, the World Health Organisation says.

This year’s conference aims to challenge delegates to develop new and innovative interventions that target the high incidence of obesity in the UAE, specifically within adolescents. Teams will be tasked with creating a public health intervention that they believe will contribute effectively to the battle against obesity, ideally taking into account both the social and biological aspects of health and disease. This proposed intervention may take almost any form – perhaps a public health policy draft, a health education program, a computer program, or a public space. By the end of the two-day conference, each team must have devised an action plan for implementing their obesity intervention, and must be prepared to present their proposal to the delegation and panel of judges. The winning team will receive an award and may additionally have their proposal submitted to local public health authorities for official review.

Tackling this massive public health issue will be an inter-university endeavor. The conference targets students from all higher education institutions in the UAE, and seeks to improve the local awareness of obesity and nutrition and the participants’ ability to generate ideas and critically reflect on public health issues. Each team will be comprised of 3-4 students from different universities, with complementary academic backgrounds and skillsets. The conference relies on active brainstorming and proposal-driven preparation sessions, along with public health seminars, skill-building workshops and presentations of each team’s proposal.

The 2015 Public Health Think Tank conference aims to increase public health awareness in the UAE and to unite local university students in solving a problem of great societal importance. This year’s conference is an expansion of a successful pilot project that took place Fall 2014, and aspires to become a lighthouse for public health innovation in the Gulf region and globally.