WASHINGTON, D.C. – Health systems in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) countries are some of the most inequitable and inadequate health systems in the world. Governments of MENA countries spend an average of 8 percent on healthcare compared to an average of 17 percent spent by OECD countries. The World Bank has released a report, Fairness and Accountability: Engaging in Health Systems in the Middle East and North Africa, that will attempt to transform healthcare in the MENA region.
“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.”
Currently, health systems in MENA focus on taking care of the sick rather than preserving and promoting health. It is critical that the MENA health systems focus on prevention because of an increase in non-communicable diseases (NCDs) and injuries in the region. In 2010 close to 73,500 people in the MENA region died from road injuries. Six Arab countries in the region rank among the global top 20 for obesity. While some of the developed countries in MENA suffer a prevalence of NCDs and injuries, there are developing countries in MENA that are working towards reaching the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). In these countries they are struggling to meet the MDGs because of high levels of maternal and child mortality.
“The response to the twin challenges of reaching the MDGs and coping with the rising burden of NCDs and injuries requires more than increasing health spending,” said Enis Baris, World Bank Sector Manager for Health in the MENA region and co-author of the Strategy. “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.”
Some of the tools the World Bank will use to create accountable and fair health systems are: empowering citizens with information about how well the system performs and how the services are provided; improving accountability of health professionals by incentivizing delivery of quality and timely preventive and medical care at a reasonable cost; and providing financial and technical support to expand health coverage to the poor, unemployed, and informally employed.