MidEast gov'ts urged to invest more in healthcare

Investment needed to combat rising tide of death due to disease and injury, says World Bank
MidEast gov'ts urged to invest more in healthcare
By Andy Sambidge
Mon 01 Jul 2013 08:02 AM

Middle East governments have been urged to invest more in healthcare services to combat a rising tide in death and disability due to non-communicable diseases (NCDs) and injuries.

The World Bank said the region's countries have some of the lowest government spending in the world, adding that access to health services is "inequitable and the quality of care is well below what people expect".

According to the latest regional health sector strategy by the World Bank this could be reversed by investing in fair and accountable health systems.

The report, Fairness and Accountability: Engaging in Health Systems in the Middle East and North Africa, launched on Thursday, highlights how MENA governments spend on average only eight percent of their individual budgets on healthcare compared to an average of 17 percent spent by OECD countries.

This means that MENA households end up paying the difference in out of pocket expenses reaching 40 percent of total health expenditures compared to 14 percent in OECD countries.

As a result, many people end up foregoing or delaying much needed medical care because of the unaffordable and impoverishing costs, the report said.

This is at a time when the MENA region is witnessing a rise in death and disability due to non-communicable diseases (NCDs) and injuries.

According to the report, close to 73,500 people in MENA, including 35,900 younger men and 3,950 children, died in road injuries in 2010.

Six Arab countries are also in the global top 20 for obesity - Bahrain, Egypt, Jordan, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and the UAE.

The report added that depression is a leading cause of illness for women and smoking a major risk factor among men.

“Our health engagement strategy for the MENA region is very timely. It has been inspired by the aspirations of the people of MENA for fairness and accountability,” said Inger Andersen, World Bank vice president for the MENA region. 

"We at the World Bank Group are committed to working closely with all countries in MENA to identify feasible and sustainable solutions to improve access and quality of healthcare.”

Enis Barış, World Bank sector manager for Health in the MENA region and co-author of the strategy, added:

“Our strategy calls for revisiting the values and principles that underpin health systems and the existing institutional frameworks for more pluralistic and accountable health system governance.

"This has been the thinking driving our strategy development which was a year-long iterative process in response to voices of people in MENA.”

Aaka H Pande, health economist and report co-author, said: “By re-orienting health systems in the region from systems only treating sickness to systems also preserving and promoting health, people can live longer and healthier lives at a lower cost to the state and the people themselves.”

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