Health systems in the Middle East need to adapt to face future challenges

EMBARGO: 00:01H (London time) Friday March 24, 2006. In North America the embargo lifts at 18:30H ET Thursday March 23, 2006.

Health systems in the Middle East and North Africa need to adapt to face new public health challenges over the next five years, state the authors of a Comment in this week's issue of The Lancet.

Currently the rate of change in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region is outpacing the rate of adaptation by public-health systems. In their Comment Francisca Ayodeji Akala and Sameh El-Saharty from The World Bank state that these transitions include the decreasing rates of infectious diseases and increasing rates of non-infectious diseases, increasing prevalence of tobacco use, increasing mortality due to road traffic injuries, iron-deficiency anaemia, and newer problems such as obesity and HIV/AIDS. Health services in the region will need to change to address these emerging health problems and focus on disease prevention and health promotion as well as treatment, state the authors.

Dr Ayodeji Akala concludes: "For countries of the MENA region, the rate of transition is outpacing the rate of adaptation by public-health systems. These challenges are long-term and will require long-term planning. This process should begin with a through assessment of the current system at individual country level and identification of the changes required to address the challenges."

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Contact: F. Ayodeji Akala, Public Health Specialist, HNP, MENA Region, The World Bank, 1818 H Street, NW Washington, DC 20433. T) 202/458-8118 fakala@worldbank.org


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