Connecting aged care innovations with Arab countries

Flinders University is leading the promotion of a health and aged care innovations collaboration with Arab and Middle Eastern nations through a project that aims to build stronger connections with the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region.

The program, funded by the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT), Council for Australian-Arab Relations (CAAR) grant, has a focus on promoting bilateral trade, investment, education and the transfer of knowledge, including in technologies relating to digital health and aged care.

Flinders University’s College of Business, Government and Law is driving this program through the Australian-Arab Collaborative, an initiative to develop and foster collaborative activities through the transfer of sciences, technology and innovative solutions between Australia and the Arab nations.

In building on previous work supported by CAAR grants, led by Associate Professor Hossein Esmaeili in 2019, and Professor Vivienne Brand in 2021, which contributed to business, cultural, legal, education and industry relations, this new project focuses on innovations in the health and aged care industry, accommodating the nature of business and regulation (including Islamic law and Arab culture) in this area.

“Due to the growing importance of healthcare and relevant industries in both regions, we intend to investigate possible areas of mutual interest between Australian industries in healthcare and the Arab world,” says Flinders University’s Dr Madhan Balasubramanian, a researcher and senior lecturer in Health Care Management.

“This will help find solutions to improve the health and wellbeing of older Arab people through the transfer of knowledge, new research projects and encouraging bilateral trade and investment in this emerging area of healthcare.”

The project aims to further reduce barriers, enhance understanding in business, promote investment and collaboration in the health industry, and establish additional platforms and networking for governments, institutions, research centres, universities and business in both Australia and Arab nations.

The project includes a two-segment Flinders MENA symposium on “Innovations in Health and Aged Care Knowledge Transfer: Australian and Middle Eastern North African (MENA) Perspectives”.

The first segment, on April 18, was hosted simultaneously by the American University in Cairo (AUC) and at Flinders City Campus in Adelaide – with a diverse line-up of speakers, academics and experts from various disciplines, including psychiatry, hospital management, care for the visually impaired, architecture, interior design, artificial intelligence, medical resource management, business, sciences and law.

The Flinders MENA Symposium opened by Professor Adela McMurray, CBGL Dean of Research, along with Mr Bill Damachius, Director of International Partnerships at Flinders University, and Professor Ian Goodwin-Smith, Director of Centre for Social Impact. Associate Professor Angie Abdel-Shafei, Flinders Dean of Business and Professor Ahmed Taher from American University in Cairo opened the symposium at Cairo.

Keynote addresses were delivered by Dr Rebecca Bilton from the Aged Care Research and Industry Innovation Australia (ARIIA), and Professor Christine Dennis, President of the Australasian College of Health Service Management SA Branch. In Egypt the keynote address was delivered by Professors Bassel Kamel and Osama Refaat.

The Adelaide panel session on “Innovations in Health and Aged Care – Overcoming Barriers, Future Directions” was chaired by Flinders University’s Professor Vivienne Brand and Associate Professor Hossein Esmaeili, and featured Professor Raj Shekhawat, Dean (Research) College of Education, Psychology and Social Work, and Dr Peivand Bastani from Flinders University; Darren Daff, Nursing Director, Partnerships and Design for the South Australian Virtual Care Service, plus independent researcher and advocate for Muslim issues in South Australia, Ms Mahjabeen Ahmad.

The Cairo session chaired by AUC Professor Ahmed Taher and Flinders University Associate Professor Angie Shafei featured Professor Osama Refaat, who heads the Psychiatry Unit for the Elderly at Cairo University; Professor Basil Kamel, an expert in architecture and cultural theory at the AUC; Dr Hisham Moneib, Oncologist and Artificial Intelligence expert at 57357 Not-for-Profit Pediatric Oncology hospital, and Doaa Mabrouk, founder and executive director of the Baseera Foundation for the Care of People with Visual Impairments

The second part of the international symposium, will be hosted simultaneously in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, and Adelaide on 5 June.

The two symposiums mark the inaugural collaboration between Flinders University in Australia, King Abdulaziz University in Saudi Arabia and the AUC, under the auspices of the Australian-Arab Relations Council, DFAT.

The outcomes of the project, including academic outcomes such as journal articles, books and policy perspectives are being developed, along with a networking platform, and will be made available in the MENA Hub for Business, Law, Regulation, Health and Aged Care.

Flinders University’s College of Business, Government and Law will also be hosting the Asia Pacific Aged Care Hub (APACH) First International Policy Forum in May, involving 7 countries to further promote Innovations in Health and Aged Care Knowledge Transfer.

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