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Healthcare in Bahrain
Bahrain is an Arab state located on the southwestern coast of the Persian Gulf. The country includes Bahrain Island and around 30 other small islands. Its economy relies on crude oil production and a rising service industry that tourism dominates. While many surrounding countries struggled with COVID-19, Bahrain has adapted well to the pandemic. Not only did the government provide free medical treatment, but Bahrain did this while experiencing Iranian cyber attacks. Bahrain’s Information and eGovernment Authority intercepted 6 million attacks and more than 830,000 malevolent emails from Iranian servers. While Bahrain certainly has challenges to face regarding other regional actors, three critical facts about healthcare in Bahrain indicate a highly successful healthcare program.

3 Progressions of Bahrain’s Healthcare

  1. Healthcare in Bahrain is Universal. While the debate on universal healthcare has recently become a common topic in many Western nations, including the United States, the government of Bahrain has offered comprehensive healthcare since 1960. The system’s services are free for citizens, and non-Bahraini inhabitants receive large subsidizations. The Ministry of Health works alongside the National Health Regulatory Authority and the Supreme Council of Health to provide three tiers of service: primary, secondary and tertiary. With primary care as the cornerstone of healthcare in Bahrain, the Ministry uses its 25 health centers and three health clinics to act as the first line of contact with sick and injured Bahraini people. While this program goes far to expand access to healthcare in Bahrain, that does not mean it is without its fair share of difficulties. Bahrain’s growing population has strained healthcare budgets as the country strives to keep and continue to improve its services. Alongside the growing population, the investment into this program has also increased, but the budget still struggles to meet its increased demands.
  2. Healthcare in Bahrain is Advanced for its Region. With a universal healthcare system, Bahrain’s low-income population does not struggle with a lack of access to healthcare. Not only is access high in Bahrain, but the technology and standard of care far surpass regional actors. The Bahrani healthcare system is one of the most advanced in the Gulf region. Moreover, the country’s facilities are state-of-the-art and have no shortage of doctors, nurses and dentists. Indeed, the standard of care in Bahrain is comparable to the care in Western countries.
  3. Bahrain has Implemented a Vaccine Passport to Help Fight COVID-19. While many countries are still debating the possibilities of a vaccine passport, the government of Bahrain decided to implement vaccination passports as early as mid-February 2021. Bahrain became one of the first countries in the world to use a digital COVID-19 vaccine passport. The country also released its BeAware app that functions as a digital vaccine passport that officials can verify. Health officials expect the technology to aid in tracking and contact tracing to help limit the spread of COVID-19 within the country. Moreover, Bahrain has taken decisive steps to overcome vaccine hesitation prevalent in Arab states. For example, Bahrain, alongside the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia, has made vaccines mandatory for specific jobs.

Looking Ahead

Even though Bahrain has faced challenges from Iran, its healthcare system has been quite successful. Through its decision to implement universal healthcare, all Bahraini citizens, even those with low incomes, can obtain quality healthcare.

Kendall Carll
Photo: Flickr

non-communicable diseases in El SalvadorEl Salvador has experienced rampant public health problems for generations and has recently made commendable successes in addressing these problems. However, non-communicable diseases in El Salvador continue to be stubborn roadblocks that cost many citizens their health and their lives.

Non-Communicable Diseases (NCDs) in El Salvador

Non-communicable diseases are those that cannot be directly spread from one person to another such as Alzheimer’s, cancer and diabetes. Like the rest of the world, NCDs are a leading cause of early death among the adult population in El Salvador. Estimates show about 71% of all global deaths result from NCDs, the majority of which come from low-and middle-income countries. During the 2011–2015 period, in El Salvador, one of the most impoverished and most dangerous countries in Latin America, cardiovascular disease accounted for some 12% of deaths. Chronic kidney disease followed at 6.3% and cancer at 5.4%.

Many of the factors leading to high death rates from non-communicable diseases in El Salvador are lifestyle-related. Sedentary lifestyles, smoking and poor nutritional choices all contribute to NCDs such as diabetes and cardiovascular disease. Poor nutrition is common in many low-and middle-income countries. A health survey among El Salvadorians found almost 94% of citizens consumed too few fruits and vegetables and almost as many consumed an excess of sugary beverages. With this information, it is no surprise the survey also found relatively high rates of overweight and obese adults. Obesity is synonymous with NCDs. Furthermore, chronic kidney disease is particularly prevalent among El Salvadorian adults. This results from excessive use of anti-inflammatory medication, inadequate hydration and exposure to agrochemicals in the workplace.

Previous Healthcare Efforts

Public health problems are nothing new to El Salvador. The Ministry of Health has been ramping up efforts to address these problems since 2009. Some of the main concerns in the past have been the fragmentation of the health sector and high rates of uninsured citizens. In 2009, the Ministry of Health implemented a National Health Strategy to correct these issues. Throughout this program, increasing equity of access to health services, improving the quality of these services and strengthening the monitoring and oversight capacity of the Ministry of Health have been top priorities. In order to accomplish these goals, El Salvador increased its public health expenditure by 33.7% from 2009 to 2019. The country also increased the amount of these expenditures allocated to the public health sector by 8%.

Many of these efforts have paid off, albeit modestly. Because of the National Health Strategy, more public health services have reached impoverished and remote citizens in El Salvador. Expanding access to healthcare has had a positive effect on the country’s economic outlook. The income-poverty rate decreased from 46.4% in 2008 to less than 34.8% in 2013 and extreme poverty dropped from 15.4% to 9.1% in the same period. Furthermore, El Salvador’s Gini coefficient (measure of income inequality) decreased from 0.47 in 2009 to 0.41 in 2013, in large part due to public service equity efforts such as those executed by the Ministry of Health.

Non-Communicable Disease Efforts

Even with all this progress, the problem of non-communicable diseases in El Salvador remains. Non-communicable diseases account for more than 65% of all deaths in the country. Therefore, the Ministry of Health teamed up with the World Bank and Access Accelerated in 2018. The two wanted to specifically fight NCDs through the project El Salvador Addressing Non-Communicable Diseases. This project focuses specifically on improving the prevention, detection and treatment of cervical cancer as well as the prevention of common NCD risk factors. In fighting cervical cancer, El Salvador received more than 86,000 HPV screening tests and almost 30,000 doses of HPV vaccines. Both prevent cervical cancer by taking early action.

Besides cervical cancer, the program works to fight other non-communicable diseases in El Salvador. It accomplishes this by training healthcare workers, providing workshops on nutrition and expanding access to mental health resources. The arrival of COVID-19 has disrupted some of these programs. However, it also forced organizers to rethink how to properly deliver care in continuation of their public health efforts. New methods have included providing health education through social networks, improving the delivery of medication, increasing the use of telehealth and making home dialysis available for chronic kidney disease patients. These approaches to healthcare spurred by COVID-19 will likely live on in the post-pandemic world. Many changes like switching to telehealth are increasingly popular, both in El Salvador and around the world.

The Road Ahead

As in most other nations, non-communicable diseases in El Salvador weigh heavily on the population. However, El Salvador has proven during the past decade that improving access to healthcare for impoverished citizens, treating NCDs proactively through preventative measures and championing new flexible ways of delivering healthcare are positive steps any country can take to make an impact on national public health. Though researchers will not know the full effects of recent programs for some time, early results are promising. Physicians are administering more HPV tests and vaccines, more public health services are reaching low-income citizens and pandemic-era practicalities are proving so popular that they will likely be hallmarks of global healthcare in the years to come.

Calvin Melloh
Photo: Flickr

10 Facts About Life Expectancy in Oman
Oman is a country located in the southeastern Arabian Peninsula, bordering Saudi Arabia, Yemen and the United Arab Emirates. The majority of the country’s population is located on the coast of the Gulf of Oman and the Arabian Sea. Wealthy in oil and progressive in culture, Oman is experiencing high levels of immigration and some expect its population to double by 2050. These 10 facts about life expectancy in Oman contribute heavily to this.

10 Facts About Life Expectancy in Oman

  1. Oman, with a population of 4.6 million (as of the last census in 2017), ranks 97th in the world in life expectancy with the average life lasting 75.9 years. The country ranks eighth in life expectancy out of the 19 Middle Eastern countries and fifth out of the seven countries on the Arabian Peninsula.
  2. Women outlive men by approximately 4.1 years on average with the female life expectancy at 78 years and the male life expectancy at 73.9 years. These averages are by no means abnormal on a global scale and are due to men being more prone to heart disease and accidents on the roadways.
  3. The life expectancy in Oman has more than doubled since 1950 when the average Omani life lasted just over 33 years. This is a 233 percent increase. The U.N. projects that the average Omani life expectancy will reach 80 years in the early 2030s. This is in large part due to the country’s advancing health care system. Qaboos bin Said Al Said, the Sultan of Oman since 1971, has stated multiple times that health care is a basic human right. He established the Ministry of Health (MoH) by a royal decree. The MoH guarantees that Omani citizens receive basic health care, free of charge.
  4. As of 2016, Oman had 69 hospitals and over 6,400 beds within them. That calculates out to slightly more than 15 beds per 1,000 people. This serves as a sign of substantial progress, given that when Qaboos bin Said Al Said came to power in 1970, only two hospitals were in operation.
  5. The World Health Organization (WHO) is working in collaboration with the MoH, and in 2014, the organization announced a long-term plan entitled Health Vision 2050. This plan calls for larger investments in the health care field. The WHO is assisting in the development and sustainment of health-related technologies. The organization also commits to teaching more proper methods of personal and professional care. The MoH currently covers more than 80 percent of the costs associated with these health care expenditures, which is roughly 11 percent of the Omani government’s entire yearly budget.
  6. Ischemic heart disease, road injuries, stroke, diabetes and lower respiratory infections are the leading causes of death in Oman. Communicable diseases have seen a sharp decline in frequency and severity in Oman due to the steadily increasing quality of life. Now, lifestyle diseases, such as diabetes, obesity and hypertension are on the rise.
  7. Obesity has become substantially more prevalent within the past decade. As of 2017, approximately 27 percent of Omani adults are obese. Oman is now the 36th most obese country in the world. The MoH is attempting to address this by educating the populous on the importance of having a healthy diet and exercising regularly.
  8. Typically, as birth rates decrease, life expectancy increases. Omani women are having far fewer children than their parents before them. The average Omani woman living in 1982 had 8.35 children. As of 2016, this number has fallen to a mere 2.67 children per woman, and many expect it to continue to decrease.
  9. As the Omani family is getting smaller, individuals are receiving more attention. Literacy rates are rising quickly, and as of 2017, 97 percent of Omani citizens are functionally literate. This is drastically higher than the surrounding countries, with the average literacy rate of the Middle East and Northern Africa at 80 percent.
  10. Oman is a young country with a median age of 25.8. Roughly 30 percent of the population falls between the ages of zero and 14.

These 10 facts about life expectancy in Oman highlight just some of the extraordinary strides the country has made since its renaissance in the early 1970s. Although its health care system still faces issues, the way the country has tenaciously planned to advance itself is admirable and people should view it as a model for what thorough and proper planning can accomplish.

– Austin Brown
Photo: Flickr