Progress and outcomes of health systems reform in the United Arab Emirates: A systematic review

Erik Koornneef, Paul Robben, Iain Blair

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

54 Citations (Scopus)


Background: The United Arab Emirates (UAE) government aspires to build a world class health system to improve the quality of healthcare and the health outcomes for its population. To achieve this it has implemented extensive health system reforms in the past 10 years. The nature, extent and success of these reforms has not recently been comprehensively reviewed. In this paper we review the progress and outcomes of health systems reform in the UAE. Methods: We searched relevant databases and other sources to identify published and unpublished studies and other data available between 01 January 2002 and 31 March 2016. Eligible studies were appraised and data were descriptively and narratively synthesized. Results: Seventeen studies were included covering the following themes: the UAE health system, population health, the burden of disease, healthcare financing, healthcare workforce and the impact of reforms. Few, if any, studies prospectively set out to define and measure outcomes. A central part of the reforms has been the introduction of mandatory private health insurance, the development of the private sector and the separation of planning and regulatory responsibilities from provider functions. The review confirmed the commitment of the UAE to build a world class health system but amongst researchers and commentators opinion is divided on whether the reforms have been successful although patient satisfaction with services appears high and there are some positive indications including increasing coverage of hospital accreditation. The UAE has a rapidly growing population with a unique age and sex distribution, there have been notable successes in improving child and maternal mortality and extending life expectancy but there are high levels of chronic diseases. The relevance of the reforms for public health and their impact on the determinants of chronic diseases have been questioned. Conclusions: From the existing research literature it is not possible to conclude whether UAE health system reforms are working. We recommend that research should continue in this area but that research questions should be more clearly defined, focusing whenever possible on outcomes rather than processes.

Original languageEnglish
Article number672
JournalBMC Health Services Research
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Sept 20 2017
Externally publishedYes


  • Health insurance
  • Health system
  • Middle East
  • Privatization
  • Reform
  • United Arab Emirates

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health Policy


Dive into the research topics of 'Progress and outcomes of health systems reform in the United Arab Emirates: A systematic review'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this