The Lancet-Palestinian Health Alliance: A forum for change

MAP’s Director of Advocacy and Campaigns, Neil Sammonds, reports from the 8th Annual LPHA Conference in Ramallah:

This week, Medical Aid for Palestinians supported the 8th annual Lancet-Palestinian Health Alliance (LPHA) Conference at Birzeit University in the West Bank. The conference brought together some 350 attendees, including Palestinians and people from 17 other countries to discuss the latest research into Palestinian health and healthcare issues.

With direction from the prestigious Lancet medical journal and involvement of multiple universities, UNRWA, the Palestinian Ministry of Health, the World Health Organization and many medical workers and others, the event was a unique opportunity to probe the many health challenges facing Palestinians in and outside of the oPt.

The topics under discussion were broad and fascinating, exploring trends and assessing services relating to non-communicable diseases (NCDs), child health, women's health, mental health, disability, and political violence.

Attendees not only shared their findings, but sought to discuss the implications of their research for healthcare policy and service delivery in the oPt, and for advocacy to address the many socio-political barriers to the realisation of Palestinians’ right to health. Among the questions raised were: 

How can we best address the growing health burden of non-communicable diseases like cardiovascular disease, now the major cause of years of life lost for Palestinians? 

Should rising anaemia in Gaza’s children be addressed by calling for unfettered access to coastal iron-rich fish stocks or promoting more prolonged taking of supplements?

How should Palestinian health services best be shaped, supported and encouraged to be cost more effective? 

Though the challenges to Palestinian health are considerable and varied, the LPHA serves as a forum for collaborative and innovative approaches for solving them. As The Lancet’s editor-in-chief Richard Horton tweeted at the end of the first day of the conference: 

MAP has actively backed the conference for many years, and our staff and supporters both feed into and benefit from it. We look forward to further research and debate, and to the 9th LPHA conference next year. 

Sadly, 27 out of the 48 Palestinian researchers and practitioners from Gaza due to attend the conference were not able to obtain Israeli-issued permits to travel to Birzeit, underscoring how a decade of blockade and closure continues to stifle medical research, training and development in the enclave.

The impact of barriers to freedom of movement on healthcare in Gaza are explored in Chapter 1 of our ‘Health Under Occupation’ report series, available here.