266402 Public health in the Arab world at a crossroad

Monday, October 29, 2012 : 5:10 PM - 5:30 PM

Samer Jabbour, MD, MPH , Department of Health Management and Policy, Faculty of Health Sciences, American University of Beirut, Beirut, Lebanon
The Arab world has been undergoing transformative changes since early 2011. Yet, the profound implications for public health are yet to be seriously debated. I first review socioeconomic and political characteristics that define the context and determinants of public health, and recent research and data on population health, disease burden, and health systems to draw a picture of public health today. I show that Arab countries have made important progress in health and development but important gaps remain. The current moment raises new challenges, for example related to destruction of public health infrastructure, but also opportunities, for example related to mobilization of health professionals as part of street struggle or newly-empowered political elites, revisions of the social contract, and proposals and plans for reforming or rebuilding social services. I argue that it cannot be assumed that public health gains would flow automatically from political and social change. This requires deliberate action by a new public health aligned with, or as part of, rising social forces. I suggest that public health is at a crossroad that touches on its ethos and purpose. While it is dominated today by an apolitical, technical, sectoral, professional and biomedical outlook and aligned with ruling classes, the public health that can respond to the current historical moment would need to be political, comprehensive, multisectoral, grassroots-based and multidisciplinary and aligned with the cause of justice. How we now develop the public health workforce and organize public health action need to be radically changed.

Learning Areas:
Public health or related education
Public health or related organizational policy, standards, or other guidelines
Public health or related public policy

Learning Objectives:
- Summarize the public health situation of the Arab world with a focus on determinants, population health, and health systems. - Define the new challenges and opportunities for public health presented by the current transformative changes in the region. - Show, based on comparative analysis with other regions that have undergone democratic transitions, that public health gains do not flow automatically from political change. - Describe the current limits of current public health that undermine its capacity to respond to the historic moment. - Outline the new characteristics of public health that would need to develop to the respond to the historic moment. - Discuss the need for new models for public health education and training and for organization of public health to address the demands of the historic moment.

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: I am a public health researcher and practitioner who have worked for over 12 years in the Arab world and am currently carrying out research on public health and political change.
Any relevant financial relationships? No

I agree to comply with the American Public Health Association Conflict of Interest and Commercial Support Guidelines, and to disclose to the participants any off-label or experimental uses of a commercial product or service discussed in my presentation.