Focusing on Israel’s health care system, policies, medical advancements and marginalized communities’ access to health care, this seminar offered information sharing and collaboration. In particular, public health experts examined how Israel deals with disenfranchised communities, the intersection of public and private health care, national standards for preventative health care, terrorism and its consequences for emergency preparedness, and how the government and public health groups deal with victims of terror, soldiers, and rehabilitation. The group members visited Hadassah Medical Center in Jerusalem, Chaim Sheba Center, Soroka Hospital in Tel Aviv and were offered individual tracks to ensure maximum opportunity for information sharing and professional collaboration with their Israeli counterparts. They met with doctors and faculty from Ben Gurion University Hospital, and went on several “house calls” to meet with Bedouin patients and with Bedouin doctors who had been trained at Ben Gurion University Medical School. The seminar, which was held during the holiday of Shavuot, also provided a first-hand experience of the cultural and religious Jewish connection to the land.
The group was especially moved after a meeting at Mevasseret Zion absorption center, where they learned about issues and information about the challenges presented to and by Ethiopians. One participant likened these to the issues health officials face in New York. The group also visited Augusta Victoria Hospital, where Dr. Tawfiq Nassar provided terrific insight into the challenges of serving the Palestinian population under current political circumstances. The participants also found visiting a Bedouin Mobile Unit to be an extraordinary experience, observing doctors who bridge cultural, language, and literacy barriers to relate to their patients.
As the role of public health in the United States expands and adapts to address an increasing number of immigrants entering the U.S. from Latin American, Asian and African countries, Israel can offer models of public health programs to benefit sectors of the changing American populace. At the forefront of public and community health and a country which shares its knowledge worldwide, Israel is a world leader in areas such as mother and child health, the reduction of infant mortality, the prevention and reduction of communicable diseases, and hospital terrorism preparedness. Successful educational campaigns have greatly reduced the level of smoking and the incidence of skin cancer caused by the sun’s rays. Moreover, Israel has the lowest percentage of new HIV positive victims in the western world, largely attributed to comprehensive sex education programs offered in the country’s high schools. Project Interchange introduced American community public health professionals to Israel’s successful models of education and awareness while familiarizing participants with Israeli society, the challenges of providing quality healthcare to all Israelis, and the short and long-term dilemma facing Palestinian health coverage.
Winston F. Wong
Prior to my experience at Project Interchange, Israel represented a nation underscored by a seemingly unending conflict with a frustrating and nearly impossible quest for peace. While the conflict in the Middle East continues to be an ever-present factor in Israel’s development, I now understand how Israel’s birth as a nation is a confluence of multiple social, political, cultural and religious factors. It is a truly unique place on earth, and through the seminar I appreciated the courage and passion of all our presenters no matter their perspectives or field of expertise. There are no simple or clear solutions to addressing the health care or security issues of Israel, but what is indisputable is the will and ultimate optimism of its citizens.
I have a much better understanding of the subtleties and challenges faced by people in the region and therefore am less likely to be swayed by stereotypes or generalizing comments.
- is developing a three-week public health course (tentatively scheduled for January 2010) for students at the University of Maryland who wish to study in Israel in collaboration with Ben Gurion University.
- has invited Dr. Amal Al Sana, a Bedouin woman who she met through the seminar, to speak at her organization’s 25th Anniversary celebration.
- had a meeting with Bruce Rosen, Director, Smokler Center for Health Policy Research at Myers-JDC-Brookdale Institute whom she met in Israel and with Professor Avi Israeli, director General of Israel’s Health Ministry to discuss environmental health issue and future ways for collaboration.