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DEEP DIVE: How the legacy of Expo 2020 Dubai can shape the future of healthcare

It was just over two weeks ago that the first World Expo to be held in the Middle East, Africa and South Asia (MEASA) region came to an end.

Following a year’s delay due to the pandemic, Expo 2020 Dubai ran from October 2021 to March 2022, logging an outstanding 24 million visits in the process. Not bad for an event that many initially didn’t know what it represented (between 26 September and 2 October 2021, the question “What is Expo 2020 Dubai?” became one of the top Expo-related searches on Google).

Now, it’s a different picture.

At Expo’s closing, the secretary general of the Bureau International des Expositions (BIE) said that the United Arab Emirates (UAE) has provided an effective case study for future expos.

“It’s clear that we have set a new bar here – it’s something I believe [Expo 2025 Osaka] will look to aspire to,” stated Dimitri Kerkentzes. 

Expo’s positive impact on healthcare – through forums, conversation, and the showcasing of technology – is one that experts hope will continue for years to come.

“World Expos exist to imagine the future of industry and envision innovative solutions to some of society’s most pressing challenges,” explains Remy Levastre, advisory director for healthcare at WSP. “This is particularly evident in relation to the healthcare sector, with Expo 2020 serving as an incubator for innovation and a platform for thought in the global health arena.”

Reenita Das, partner and senior vice president of healthcare and life sciences at Frost & Sullivan, adds: “The impact is not only positive, but far reaching and transformational. [Expo 2020] helped unify the world under a single country umbrella.”

FIRST EXPO IN MEASA

As the first Expo in the region, Expo 2020 Dubai has no doubt created a lasting legacy – not only through the exchange of ideas – but also through the demonstration of its healthcare system, says Das.

“From an external brand point of view, it has elevated the UAE to a world stage in terms of healthcare innovation, technology and sustainability,” she says. “The way the UAE handled a major global summit amidst a global pandemic in terms of safety, policy, regulations, and vaccine deployment – where over 22 million visitors attended from nearly 200 countries – is enough [of a] testimonial to showcase the strength and resilience of its healthcare system.”

She continues: “From its immaculate execution of Expo 2020, [the UAE has demonstrated] its supremacy to becoming a world leader in medical tourism. The growth opportunities in medical tourism are abound, and the UAE should utilise Expo 2020 to take this to the next level.”

GATHERING GOVERNMENT & MORE

The six-month event united experts and decision makers from around the world at Expo-wide or country-specific forums to discuss the future of healthcare.

One key gathering was its World Majlis series, of which one theme was health and wellness.

“With increasingly effective treatments for communicable diseases – coupled with advances in big data and technology, and the emerging field of genomics and precision medicine – healthcare will shift from being a practice for treating disease and acute episodes in hospitals, to prevention and distributed long-term management of chronic issues,” Expo 2020 outlined in a post-event statement.

There were also a number of events by government, private companies, and individuals.

Last month, for instance, the Emirates Oncology Society (EOS) launched the first Emirati publication on cancer in the Arab world. A total of 50 researchers from around the region contributed to the title, led by Professor Humaid Alshamsi, president of EOS, and professor of oncology at the University of Sharjah.

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