Victory for Accessible Healthcare

29 January 2020

In 2015, alumni from Shatil’s Galilee Health Advocates Trainings founded the Arab-Jewish Citizens’ Forum for the Promotion of Health in the Galilee to address staggering healthcare disparities in northern Israel.

In particular, many citizens in the north of Israel have to contend with long distances and unreasonable wait times to access proper medical care.

On this issue, the Forum’s goal was straightforward: to achieve standardized wait and travel times so all Israeli citizens could have reasonable access to medical care. As a result of this work, in an unprecedented move, the Israeli Ministry of Health recently collaborated with health insurance providers to establish a policy for reasonable nation-wide standards in five critical areas of medical services.

The policy will dramatically change the lives of residents in the periphery, who often must wait months and travel for several hours to receive consultations and treatment.

“For the first time ever, the Ministry of Health has committed to standardization of healthcare for all citizens of Israel,” said Lev Aran, Shatil Coordinator of the Arab-Jewish Citizens’ Forum for the Promotion of Health in the Galilee. “This is a huge accomplishment for the Forum.”

The move sets a precedent for civil society/government partnering and creates a model for standardization of social services in other areas.

In addition, after years of Forum members advocating for public participation in Health Ministry policy decisions, the Ministry recently established a new department for public participation processes. There is already a close working relationship between the Forum and the new department.

While Israel enjoys a relatively high standard of healthcare, services in the North sorely lag compared to those in central Israel. The rate of infant mortality in the North is nearly twice as high as it is in the center of the country, average life expectancy is a full two years lower, and there are half as many doctors per capita in the North as there are in central Israel.

Today, the Forum has over 200 members, including high-ranking physicians, health professionals, business people, government officials, media experts, lawyers, and activists. Together, they work toward their goal of reducing gaps in health services and status for the 1,300,000 residents in the Galilee, over half of whom are Palestinian.

As one of Shatil’s most successful collaborations between Palestinian Israelis and Jews, the Forum has registered achievements such as: the government’s allocation of 930 million shekels to improve access to medical services and experts in the North, and the first Northern radiation treatment center for cancer patients. The Forum also received a World Health Organization grant to draft a case study of the project as a model for other countries.