Middle Eastern Development Needs More Public Health Workers
By admin September 26, 2016

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Better health is central to human happiness and well-being, the WHO affirms; it is a fundamental variable influencing people’s ability to exit their poverty traps and contributes to economic progress as healthy populations live longer, are more productive, and save more in the long-term. When talking about the Middle East, experts tend to stress the fact that the region’s public-health challenges are enormous, especially when one accounts for the region’s transient population of refugees and guest workers. The refugee population alone now accounts for millions and is straining health-care systems in Jordan, Lebanon, and Turkey nearly to the breaking point.

Moreover, after the Arab Spring, disruptions of health systems in countries such Egypt, Jordan, Libya, Syria, Tunisia and Yemen have compounded the trauma and misery that have arisen from the region’s many conflicts reducing life expectancy and augmenting infectious diseases and maternal mortality.

Also Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries, which receives hundreds of thousands of Middle Eastern workers, should not assume that they are exempt from their neighbors public-health problems. Both Qatar and the United Arab Emirates are experiencing increased drug and alcohol use, suggesting that the stress of mere proximity to violence elsewhere, combined with increasing openness and massive growth in illicit drug production in conflict zones such as Afghanistan, could push especially young people and adolescents toward substance abuse as a coping mechanism.

These problems, however, have not been addressed thoroughly by Middle Eastern policymakers. National health systems lack local clinicians and trained professionals working in public-health services. Policies based on increasing access for quality health care towards government subsidies raise the issue of how and whether granting fair distribution of health-care services across native and migrant populations; this problem is even more pressing in the context of the largest refugee crisis of the last 70 years.

Higher education has expanded rapidly in the region and governments have created educational free-trade zones – such as the “Education Cities” in the UAE and Qatar – and invested billions of dollars in existing universities. However, too few local students – and far too few young men – are pursuing public-health careers. Moreover, while the overall number of public health students is increasing, most come from outside the region, which will only intensify MENA countries current over-dependency on foreign workers. Finally, within health-care education itself, students are learning clinical notions but they are not exposed to public health administration issues affecting refugees, migrants, or the wider population. Current curricula lack a multi-disciplinary approach in which social sciences are taught along with medicine.

Health problems in the Middle East are deeply embedded in politics; public health depends on the power of policymakers, and to enhance the effective development of its populations MENA region countries should first address the illnesses of their political systems. A renewed confidence on institutions and a condition of peace are the prerequisites for improving Middle Eastern health-care systems. The Middle East’s population will continue to grow, but whether the region will also grow as a hub for trade and economic development will depend in part on its governments’ ability to reform public-health education and practice.

For more information: 

WHO: Poverty and Health

The Rise and Fall of Middle Eastern Health Systems

Training the Middle East’s Future Health Care Professionals

GUST Launch Research Center with Boston University’s Zaman lab

The Global Burden of Disease Study



Thanks for sharing !

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