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The National Health Insurance Company - Daman is the region's leading specialised health insurer, providing comprehensive health insurance solutions to more than 2.5 million members in the UAE. Over the years, the company has been the partner of choice for a number of the country's most prominent organisations and multinational companies in various industries including oil and gas, aerospace, energy, construction, investments and media.

Daman is a public joint-stock company that is 80% owned by the Abu Dhabi Government with the remaining 20% owned by Munich Re. The company is backed by the reliable support of the Abu Dhabi Government and its strategic partner, Munich Re, one of the world's leading reinsurers, plays an important role as both reinsurer and a valuable source for knowledge transfer.

Headquartered in Abu Dhabi and established in 2006, Daman offers a range of health insurance plans for both individuals and organisations and exclusively manages the Government's health programme - Thiqa - for UAE Nationals and Abu Dhabi Basic Plan - for low income expatriates. Members enjoy access to the largest healthcare providers' network in the UAE and an extensive international network of over 45 countries.

Daman, a pioneer in health care insurance, drives innovation through a combination of state-of-the-art technology and healthcare-related expertise offered by a highly skilled and knowledgeable workforce. Members benefit from added value through unique offerings such as the disease and case management programmes as part of the acclaimed Health Support services. Daman also operates a 24/7 customer call centre and has a medical services authorisation team in direct contact with Daman's network of healthcare providers. It also provides a diverse range of online services that are unmatched in the UAE.

Daman has set high standards in the health insurance industry and has been awarded a number of internationally recognised awards and quality-focused certifications in a relatively short span of time. The company is ISO 9001 certified for Quality Management Systems and ISO 27001 certified for Information Security Management. The company's successful application of the online-based Pharmacy Benefit Management system has received a full accreditation by URAC.

"It gives us great pleasure to partner with MEED on the first Daman Corporate Health Awards. With employees spending at least a third of their day at work, the workplace has a key role to play in their overall health. We believe it is time to recognise and encourage UAE-based corporations and organisations that realise the importance of health and wellness by running programmes and initiatives to benefit their staff. The awards celebrate the companies who actively take an interest in their staff's overall wellbeing whilst also providing excellent reference points and key case studies for those who have yet to launch their own programmes."

Dr. Michael Bitzer, Chief Executive Officer, Daman

Q&A with Dr. Bitzer

1. How and why does Daman support corporate wellness in the UAE?

Since we started back in 2006, we have organised and sponsored multiple events and activities that encourage people to lead a healthy lifestyle. We have even launched an entirely separate brand, Activelife which is solely focused on getting the UAE community, not just our members, to be active and more aware of different health issues.

Being healthy and fit is a lifestyle choice; and with work occupying a significant part of many people's lives, it is a logical step to promote a healthy work environment. We have been exploring the idea of integrating health and wellness into corporates and large organisations for the last few years.

In 2012 Daman launched a company-wide pilot programme where we partnered with health and fitness experts to define and tailor a suitable outline for our employees. The pilot programme provided valuable experience of the intricacies involved in how corporate wellness should be; specifically, how to motivate staff and how to get management buy-in and support.

We are currently rolling out another pilot programme with one of our clients; and based on our findings and experience, we hope to be able to offer corporate wellness programmes to other clients. In addition to a full-scale programme, we are also working on ways to encourage companies' management to embrace the notion of a health-focused workplace.

2. How important is corporate wellness for employees' productivity and organisation-wide performance?

Corporate wellness has been shown to boost productivity and performance, both of employees and of the overall business. When organisations adopt a health-oriented strategy that focuses on the overall wellbeing of staff, it immediately improves staff perception of the company and the overall employee-management relationship; creating a factor of appreciation and increased loyalty. Of course, there needs to be an initiative in place for staff to appreciate the good intention. Do you have any evidence / figs. / facts you can add to support these statements?

Productivity wise, a healthy person is likely to perform better, benefitting from increased energy levels and lowering the chances of illness. For the organisation, greater productivity per capita means greater productivity overall which ultimately benefits the bottom line. Moreover, if the company has a health insurance policy, such as the case in Abu Dhabi and soon Dubai, a healthy workforce will be a major factor in controlling the rate of premium increases year-on-year.

For staff the benefit is even better; by encouraging a healthy lifestyle which can influence their personal lives, they will enjoy an improved quality of life and, in the long-term, reduced their risk of developing lifestyle diseases.

3. How can organisations in the UAE improve their corporate wellness? What effect will improving corporate wellness have on the UAE economy at large?

First, a clear strategy for their corporate wellness objectives should be defined. From this, a member of the senior management team should sponsor this strategy and communicate it directly to the staff as a way to indicate its importance to the organisation.

It is better to start with simple, focused activities that immediately impact staff, for example having weekly runs at a park or even attending the Daman-sponsored TrainYAS every Tuesday on Yas Marina Circuit where colleagues can get together for a walk, bike ride or run at a first-class facility for free.

It is also important to allow staff to engage with the programme by offering the chance for them to include activities they are interested in, maybe creating a football team or even sharing wholesome recipes. Internal engagement programmes always work well when staff are able to shape them for their own needs. -. Do you have any evidence / figs. / facts you can add to support this statement?

Regarding the wider effect on the UAE economy, it is currently difficult to estimate the impact on the whole economy from such a new concept. Regardless of the size of impact however, it can only be positive. Especially, if you consider that it contributes towards having a healthier workforce that is likely to be more productive and less likely to suffer from chronic diseases.