Emirates News Agency – DoH to expand pre-marital screening for 570 genetic medical conditions

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ABU DHABI, 25th November, 2022 (WAM) – The Department of Health – Abu Dhabi (DoH), the regulator of the healthcare sector in the Emirate, has incorporated an optional genetic screening in its pre-marital screening programme, with the test set to cover 570 medical conditions.

The incorporation of pre-marital screening into the Programme seeks to enhance the health and quality of life for families through the avoidance of recurrent genetic diseases.
The Department will leverage its advanced healthcare infrastructure and innovative ecosystem to utilise the DNA sequencing technology and foresee medical conditions among individuals and encourage the translation of advanced genetic data provided through the Emirati Genome Programme into clinical practice. This step comes as part of DoH’s ongoing efforts to elevate the patient journey throughout the different phases of their healthcare experience including the diagnostic phase, genetic counselling and introducing reproductive medicine solutions. The Preventive Programme is set to establish carriers of recessive genetic diseases for couples planning to get married and reveal any prospect of passing unfavourable and chronic genetic diseases to their offspring which may require complex treatment. Moreover, it will link the couples to reproductive medicine solutions and options.

The pilot phase will be led by trained family physicians and will commence in two Ambulatory Healthcare Services (AHS) centres including Oud Al Touba Health Centre and Al Maqta Health Centre.

Dr. Asmaa Al Mannaei, Executive Director of Research and Innovation Centre at DoH, said, “The integration of the Genome Programme capabilities into pre-marital screening is a reflection of the Department’s efforts to achieve a ‘Healthier Abu Dhabi’. The step serves as a preventive measure to safeguard and maintain the health and well-being of our community. As a leading destination for life sciences, today Abu Dhabi is home to some of the world’s most innovative healthcare solutions that not only treat patients but elevate quality of life for them and generations to come. The expansion of the pre-marital programme is designed with the highest levels of quality-care through the fusion of operational best practices and integration of the latest technologies.”

Dr. Omniyat Al Hajeri the Executive Director of Community Health Sector in Abu Dhabi Public Health Centre, said, “A premarital screening programme is compulsory for couples looking to get married in the UAE. The new initiatives of expanding genetic testing is part of the continuous improvement and expansion of screening programmes led by Abu Dhabi Public Health Centre which serve Abu Dhabi’s community, and are provided on a voluntary basis, so couples come for counselling of their own accord. This programme is benefits future generations as it enables new spouses to identify the causative genes for diseases that their children may carry. Thus, will contribute to building a healthier and disease-free society with less treatment burden on the parents and on the healthcare sector. At Abu Dhabi Health Centre, we have dedicated an annual programme concerned with pre-marital examinations, and expanding its scope of genetic examinations brings us closer to what we strive to achieve.”

Dr. Noura Al Ghaithi, Acting Chief Executive Officer at Ambulatory Healthcare Services, who are partnering with DoH on implementing this programme, said, “Expanding the pre-marital screening programme will ultimately reduce the number of genetic disorders passed on from one generation to the next and will improve the overall health of our community.”

The Emirati Genome Programme operates in line with the highest ethical and governance standards and ensures the data privacy and security of all participants. Taking part in the programme will also support ongoing efforts to develop healthcare strategies that address the population’s specific needs, and help advance personalised and preventive medicine in the UAE.

Couples that wish to take the test are advised to consider receiving the genetic testing prior to their marriage to develop their disease management plan in advance. Upon their visit to the health centre, a physician will provide a detailed explanation on the testing journey, objectives, capabilities, benefits and challenges of this screening.

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