Abu Dhabi launches new platform for people affected by multiple sclerosis

A majority of people living with the disease first exhibit symptoms between the ages of 20 to 40

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Ashwani Kumar

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Published: Fri 14 Apr 2023, 3:49 PM

The National Multiple Sclerosis Society (NMSS) has been launched in Abu Dhabi with an aim to improve the quality of life affected by this unpredictable disease.

Multiple Sclerosis (MS) is a disease of the central nervous system that disrupts the flow of information between the brain and body and within the brain itself. Globally, it’s estimated that more than 2.8 million people are living with MS, which has no cure.

As of 2022, about 2,000 people have been diagnosed with MS in the UAE, although the number is thought to be more than double. The new society is investing in a national MS registry to develop a better understanding of the prevalence of the disease in the country, top officials said during the launching ceremony.

“The National Multiple Sclerosis Society (NMSS) drives its vision from the vision of our Founding Father, the late Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, who firmly believed in the importance of supporting the health and wellbeing of citizens, including protection from illness and disease. His vision was and continues to be, translated into effective policies, proper planning, and constant awareness of the needs of society, so future generations may enjoy all aspects of their lives, the physical, mental and social, and so that every individual may achieve their full potential in society,” Sheikh Theyab bin Mohamed bin Zayed said.

NMSS, established as an NGO under the Ministry of Community Development, seeks to raise awareness about MS, create a holistic ecosystem for the community in the UAE, provide resources for the affected, and support global efforts to find a cure for the disease.

“Today, we celebrate the launch of the National Multiple Sclerosis Society in the UAE; a society which seeks to make a real difference in the lives of people living with multiple sclerosis, and to support them as we work together to seek better treatment, and ultimately a cure. The main goal of the association is to empower and support those with MS to live their lives to the fullest, and to raise community awareness and work towards creating a world without multiple sclerosis.”

Mansour Ibrahim Al Mansouri, Chairman, Department of Health – Abu Dhabi noted that working alongside medical societies such as the NMSS will allow health authorities to enhance the well-being of patients.

“Due to the impact that MS has on our community, Abu Dhabi’s healthcare sector has invested in advanced technologies and medical research to enhance MS management and has even established specialised MS clinics and rehabilitation centres. The launch of the UAE’s first MS registry is a pivotal step that would help researchers and doctors around the Emirate in providing advanced and personalised levels of care for members of our community.”

National registry, Dh2 million grant

Dr Fatima Al Kaabi, Vice Chair of the National MS Society Board of Trustees and Executive Director of the Bone Marrow Transplant Programme at the Abu Dhabi Stem Cells Center (ADSCC), announced several new programmes led by the Society, including the upcoming pilot of a National MS registry to track the number of people with MS and progression of the disease in the UAE, developed in partnership with Department of Health – Abu Dhabi, Abu Dhabi Public Health Center and G42.

The partnership has made possible the integration of new MS information into the Malaffi web application to support those with the disease and raise awareness too.

Dr Al Kaabi highlighted the launch of supporting research grants worth Dh2 million, which will support local and international researchers looking to advance innovative treatments overall and give a greater understanding into the characteristics of the disease which specifically affect those located in the UAE.

Dr Al Kaabi pointed out the commencement of MS Circles, which are moderated sessions for people living with MS to discuss key topics around MS with the aim of building a wider, bigger MS community and deepening understanding around key issues to gain better support and ensure relevant change.

She underscored the need for innovative treatments for MS and highlighted advancements of local partners on this front, including Abu Dhabi Stem Cell Centre’s groundbreaking progress on autologous hematopoietic stem cell transplantation (AHSCT) and bone marrow transplantation to treat patients with MS, the first such procedures performed in the region.

“Every person with MS deserves to live an empowered and fulfilling life by having access to the best possible care. NMSS will be a critical partner in delivering this vision as we progress with building an ecosystem of support across the UAE. Everything we do will be informed by the experiences of those living with MS – we will listen to and learn from them.”

What are the symptoms?

Although people of any age can be diagnosed with MS, the majority of people living with MS first exhibit symptoms between the ages of 20 to 40. Symptoms include numbness, tingling, mood changes, memory problems, pain, fatigue, blindness and/or paralysis.

More women than men are diagnosed with MS, and a person’s chance of having the condition is also influenced by their genetics, place of residence, and ethnicity.

While MS is relatively rare, the unpredictable and often disabling nature of the disease can cause a range of physical, emotional and mental health challenges for those affected. The early diagnosis and treatment of MS improves long-term health and wellbeing and can reduce the number of relapses people experience. The local authorities are focused on raising awareness and reducing stigma around the disease.

For more information can be found on https://www.nationalmssociety.ae.

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