Past Conferences

The 2017 Public Think Tank follows three remarkably successful PHTT conferences:

In 2016, the Public Health Think Tank tackled the pressing issue of road traffic incidents in the UAE. As the second major cause of death in the nation, 20% of traffic incidents have been found to be caused by youth between the ages of 18 and 25. Teams worked to carefully analyse the cause of youths’ risky driving behavior, inspecting social, cultural, and infrastructural aspects. Their final proposals were presented to a panel of judges that included Dr. Johnathon P. Ehsani, Professor of Health Policy and Management at Johns Hopkins University’s Bloomberg School of Public Health; Dr. Abdishakur Abdulle, Associate Director of the NYU Abu Dhabi Public Health Research Center; Dr. Alexandra Dimitri, Department Head at Fatima College of Health Sciences; and Dr. Dirk Richter, Senior Adviser for Strategy at Health Authority Abu Dhabi.

The conference also featured several talks delivered by distinguished experts of the field. Guest speakers Dr. Michal Grivna, Professor at United Arab Emirates Univeristy and Dr. Johnathon P. Ehsani delivered keynotes on the issue both within the UAE and abroad, while Professor John Coughlin delivered a workshop on how to deliver an effective presentation. Saba Brelvi provided delegates with a workshop on how to devise a public health action plan.

The final presentations featured a diverse array of novel proposals, including the use of virtual reality to train young drivers for adverse weather conditions, and implementing a tracking device that would report directly to the driver’s parents. Many proposals focused on the unique situation of youth, emphasizing the need for communal engagement in the forms of peer support groups and community service. The winning proposal suggested the mandatory use of driving simulators within the process of obtaining a driver’s license, stating lack of experience as a key factor leading to road traffic incidents. Read more about PHTT 2016 here.

The 2015 Public Health Think Tank focused on the issue of obesity in adolescents in the UAE. 34 delegates from 13 universities across the Emirates were selected from a pool of more than 120 applicants to devise innovative strategies to tackle the obesity crisis in the UAE. Over two days, the students participated in workshops and lectures to prepare themselves for formulating an action plan to implement their initiatives and designed their own interventions in groups.

The conference featured several distinguished experts in the field of obesity and public health. They included guest speakers Professor Jennifer Pomeranz, Clinical Assistant Professor at the College of Public Health at NYU, Dr Malin Garemo, Assistant Professor of Nutrition and Public Health at Zayed University UAE, Dr Abdishakur Abdulle, Associate Director of the Public Health Research Centre at NYUAD, and Dr Lily O’Hara, Assistant Professor at Emirates College of Advanced Education. Andrea Leinberger-Jabari delivered a workshop on how to devise a public health action plan, Professor Andrew Sterner helped the delegates create engaging proposals for their initiatives, and Amani Magid spoke about library research strategies that would help the delegates create evidence-based interventions.

The winning team targeted their initiative to the residents of Al Sila, a traditional town of approximately 10,000 people in UAE’s Western Region. The team built upon existing frameworks using a multifaceted approach. For instance, one of their initiatives was to increase the number of restaurants sporting the ‘Weqaya’ label, a screening program launched by the Health Authority Abu Dhabi. The team’s proposal also targeted supermarkets, cafés, and homes of Emiratis to implement grass root level solutions. As the winning team, the team became eligible for a grant to implement their proposal in the UAE, along with access to mentors from university faculty and HAAD. Read more about PHTT 2015 here.

The 2014 Public Health Think Tank 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.

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. The speakers included 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.

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. Read more about PHTT 2014 here.