– A revisit of ‘Dubai We Learn’ Exemplar Benchmarking Projects –

By Professor Dotun Adebanjo and Dr Robin Mann

The great appeal of benchmarking is its ability to enable organisations to identify best practices from other organisations and adopt or adapt those practices to improve performance. The benchmarking process itself can be both demanding and exciting as the benchmarking team seeks to understand their organisation’s performance; identify, shortlist and visit benchmarking partners; determine the most suitable best practices; and work with internal (and sometimes external) stakeholders to implement the best practices.

Although many aspects of the benchmarking process can be underpinned or driven by prescriptive guidelines and also managed along pre-determined timelines, the implementation of best practices is less amenable to prescriptiveness and time limitation. This is principally because the numbers, nature, scope and ease of implementation will vary significantly with the type of project and particulars of the organisation. Indeed, where many best practices are selected for implementation, it may be necessary and beneficial to implement the practices in stages or batches. It is also important to note that the benchmarking process does not end with the identification of best practices or indeed their implementation, it is also necessary to evaluate if the desired outcomes have been achieved and if not, to understand why and refine the practices as necessary.

With this in mind, we returned to a sweltering Dubai in August 2019, 15 months after the completion of the second round of ‘Dubai We Learn’ (DWL) to visit three exemplar ‘7 Stars’ projects. ‘Dubai We Learn’ is an initiative of the Dubai Government Excellence Programme (DGEP) in collaboration with the Centre for Organisational Excellence Research (COER) based at Massey University New Zealand. The second round of ‘Dubai We Learn’ benchmarking projects consisted of 11 projects in different Dubai Government entities and took place between March 2017 and April 2018. Details of the 11 projects and their achievements by April 2018 are available in an e-book (to be published soon). Three of the eleven benchmarking projects were 7 stars for benchmarking proficiency based on the TRADE Benchmarking Methodology that was adopted to drive the DWL projects.

So, 15 months on, how have Dubai Government Human Resources (DGHR), Dubai Health Authority (DHA), and Dubai Police fared with their respective projects.

Case No. 2 – Dubai Health Authority (DHA)
The DHA project was entitled, “Prevention better than Cure / Innovative Prevention Program to Combat Diabetes”. The primary aim of the project was to ‘develop and start implementing a Dubai diabetes prevention framework based on worldwide best practices within one-year (2017) and reduce the pre-diabetic population of 356,460 adults by at least 10% by 2021.’ At the formal close of the benchmarking project in April 2018, the DHA benchmarking team had identified 114 best practice ideas from several sources including benchmarking visits to 4 organisations, desktop research and telephone-based benchmarking discussions. Of the 114, best practices, 14 were approved for deployment.

The primary achievement of the DHA Benchmarking Team was the development of a Dubai Diabetes Prevention Framework consisting of 5 key dimensions:

  • Promoting Healthy Lifestyle
  • Early screening on DM and risk factors
  • Creative and innovative Sustainable Interventions
  • Supportive health system and partnership
  • Enforcement of non-communicable diseases policy

By April 2018 DHA had successfully carried out diabetes screening of 22,222 Dubai residents in 12 health centres as well as the completion of the pilot phase of a Happiness Prescription Program with 43 participants. The program focussed on people at risk of diabetes using combinations of a comprehensive health survey, nutrition and health education and support, and various fitness classes. To underpin the roll out of the Happiness Prescription Program, DHA started the first phase of the ‘Hayati’ smart application with the focus of the first phase being a diabetes prevention risk assessment survey. In addition, DHA established two lifestyle clinics and developed a non-communicable disease policy for approval by Dubai’s Executive Council. DHA also carried out more awareness campaigns which engaged with 47,303 people i

Professor Dotun Adebanjo and Dr Robin Mann catching up with Sherif Taha and Dr Salah Thabit from DHA

What has happened since then?

Firstly, it was pleasing to hear that the Dubai Diabetes Prevention Framework is continuing to be used to lead and manage an integrated approach to tackling diabetes in Dubai – this continues to be the prime value of the Dubai We Learn project. This unified approach, consisting of many initiatives by different stakeholders, enables DHA to have a larger impact on diabetes than it would otherwise be able to if it worked in isolation.

The two lifestyle clinics are now firmly established and operating sustainably and with the ability to cover all regions of Dubai. By the end of 2018, the lifestyle clinics had treated 158 residents (increased from 43 treated during the pilot phase) and DHA has been working with various organisations to increase awareness of the lifestyle clinics to encourage more referrals. More than 70% of patients lost weight and reduced their risk of developing diabetes. Members of the benchmarking team continue to manage the operations of the clinics. More lifestyle clinics are planned for the future.

Early screening activities have also become firmly established in Dubai’s health centres. To enable maximum engagement, diabetes screening has become routine as it is part of national periodic check-up and doctors in Dubai’s Primary Health Centres all have to screen patients 18 years and above. 58% of targeted clients had already been screened by the end of 2018.

The development of the ‘Hayati’ prevention application has also moved on from the first phase. The app now has full functionality to assess and refer patients, and will soon be able to follow their daily activities and facilitate the management of activities such as sporting activities and food consumption habits. The policy on non-communicable diseases (NCD) has been approved by the Ruler of Dubai, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, and the Executive Council of Dubai. Implementation of the policy will be completed by 2021. An innovative aspect of the policy will be the use of technology by way of a ‘Telemedicine Doctor’ to improve access of Dubai residents to medical personnel. This one-to-one telemedicine facility will be launched in September 2019. The ownership of NCD has also changed and transferred to the Public Health Department.

Hayati App for managing diabetes available from Google Play

Major strides have been achieved with respect to awareness campaigns and engagement with the public. In partnership with Dubai Government and staff from various department and entities, Dubai Sports World was organised for the summer of 2018 and continues today. Many sports are available in one pro-standard air-conditioned area to encourage Dubai Government staff to participate in different activities to increase their fitness. DHA also participates in the Dubai Fitness challenge (DFC) launched in 2017 by the Dubai Government. DFC encourages all residents of Dubai to engage in 30 minutes of sporting activities over 30 days (30/30). This initiative increases awareness of risk factors of chronic diseases and helps people to start a healthy lifestyle.

A wider campaign to improve the health of Dubai residents and reduce diabetes risk factors is also being led by the Public Health Department. This includes a campaign in Dubai public schools to increase time allocated for sporting activities while also launching a ‘Dubai Olympics’ challenge for the public schools. Awareness campaigns have also been carried out in Dubai Government organisations and are being rolled out to private organisations.

Away from the implementation of the project outcomes, the DHA Benchmarking Team continues to promote the use of benchmarking as an improvement technique and have been sharing their knowledge and experiences with a benchmarking team from the Dubai Corporation for Ambulance Services (DCAS) and were planning on the same day that we visited them to share their learning with a new DHA benchmarking team set up to increase the Survival Rate of Post-Cardiac Arrest from 5% to 20% by the year 2020. For information on this new project click here.

The DHA team are quietly confident that through the Dubai Diabetes Prevention Framework they are on track to meet their ambitious project aim of reducing the pre-diabetic population by at least 10% by 2021. The team believe that without undertaking the Dubai We Learn project it was unlikely that a Dubai Diabetes Prevention Framework would have been developed and DHA’s focus on diabetes prevention would have primarily focussed on the initiatives that it had control of rather than developing a multi-faceted and unified Dubai-wide approach. With the framework they know it will still be a challenge to meet the project’s aim as trends have been indicating higher levels of diabetes in the future and so the trend needs to plateau and reverse. However, with the framework they are steadily making progress and are on track to succeed. This indeed will be a major achievement not only in terms of the health benefits for the 300,000 plus at-risk group but also for their families and the Dubai population as a whole as it embraces a healthier lifestyle.

Read the other case studies, Dubai Government Human Resources (DGHR) and Dubai Police.

For more information on Dubai We Learn contact:

Dr. Zeyad Mohammad El Kahlout, Senior Quality and Excellence Advisor, Dubai Government Excellence Program (DGEP). Email: Zeyad.ElKahlout@tec.gov.ae


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