MAP attends International Conference on the future of Family Medicine in Palestine

In another important step forward for our Family Medicine Programme in the West Bank, Medical Aid for Palestinians (MAP) sponsored a second International Conference on Family Medicine in Bethlehem on 21 and 22 November.

The conference aimed to raise the international and national profile of family medicine, a new approach to primary healthcare that seeks to ensure Palestinian families have access to continuous, comprehensive and patient-centred care throughout their lives. It highlighted key developments taking place in the West Bank over the last decade, as well as discussing the plans to expand family medicine practice over the next three years. It was co-organised by the Palestinian Association of Family Medicine (PAFM) and the Foundation for Family Medicine in Palestine (FFMP), under the auspices of the Palestinian Minister of Health. In addition to MAP, other sponsors were the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), An Najah National University (ANNU), Palestinian healthcare NGO Juzoor, and the World Health Organization (WHO).

Speaking at the conference, the Palestinian Deputy Prime Minister, Dr Ziad Abu Amr described the importance of this approach to the Palestinian government’s plans to develop local healthcare: "We believe in the importance of family medicine and its role in preventing diseases and promoting health awareness in the community, where family members receive comprehensive and holistic health care and health education.”

Developing the specialism of family medicine in the Palestinian health sector is important for ensuring all Palestinians have access to high-quality equitable, efficient and affordable primary healthcare throughout their lives. More widely, it will help the health system to manage the growing burden of chronic diseases among an ageing population in Palestine. MAP is supporting a four-year family medicine residency training programme at ANNU; the development of two family medicine training centres within the Ministry of Health (MoH); and a transitional training programme for staff at MoH and UNRWA multi-disciplinary primary healthcare clinics.

“The specialty of family medicine is crucial and is the main pillar in building a sound and comprehensive medical system” said Palestinian Minister of Health, Dr. Mai Al-Kaila, also speaking at the conference. “Family medicine is the cornerstone for disease prevention and the first step towards attaining a healthy Palestinian society.”

More than 200 participants – both local and international experts – attended, representing the spectrum of healthcare disciplines with a stake in the development of family medicine, including doctors, nurses, midwives, pharmacists and other primary care professionals; hospital clinical and public health specialists; and medical students. Seeking to foster a discussion about how the specialism can be taken forward in Palestine, the conference activities included seminars, posters, and workshops. A symposium was held which covered the clinical aspects of family medicine, updates on training and research, and discussions on community engagement and patient participation.

Head of the Palestinian Association of Family Medicine Dr. Mohammad Rubai described the role of PAFM as an “incubator for family doctors from various health and educational institutions.” The conference, he said, was “a dream and became a reality, where family medicine has developed to be an inspiration for all medical institutions.”

“A well-developed family medicine system is one of the priorities of the World Health Organization and is the dream of every Minister of Health."

MAP will continue to work towards firmly placing family medicine as an integral part of the Palestinian healthcare system, with the potential to address many of the country’s health needs now and in years to come.

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