Exclusive Commentary: Shaping a New Era for Middle East Health Systems

By Mariam Bhacker

Last month, Tim France and Jeffery Lazarus of Inis Communication and Health Systems Global, respectively, released a modified version of the WHO Health Systems Framework, integrating communication and patient engagement with the existing building blocks.

In the Middle East, these simple additions could make a huge impact.  In a region that operates in silos, undervalues research, and where autocratic politics dominates decision-making, communication and community engagement are key to moving beyond fragmented, inefficient, inequitable health systems towards a people-centered model for health.

The HEYA Kuwait child obesity project is an example of what this new era for the WHO health systems framework could look like in practice. In Kuwait, as elsewhere in the region, the current health system is ill equipped to deal with the sharply rising epidemic of non-communicable disease. HEYA brings together researchers, policy makers, schools, parents and students to share knowledge for the development of community-based health interventions. This focus on participation for prevention and sharing of local expertise is a novel approach for a region that tends to the curative and context-lacking recommendations of foreign “experts,” and reflects the need to formally re-conceptualize health systems beyond the traditional health sector to facilitate lasting health for all.

Mariam Bhacker is Founder of Global Health Middle East.

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