Any effort aiming to evaluate current health care policies in Syria must analyse its three different components that are closely interdependent:
- Health that is defined by the World Health Organisation (WHO) as a state of complete physical, mental, and social wellbeing, and not merely the absence of disease.
- Health care system which is defined as a structure within which people, governmental policies, and organisations interact to assure the right of access to quality health for all citizens at an economical cost.
- Health care information system which is the process by which information about the status of the health care system and quality is timely and reliably collected, analysed and provided to policy makers.
Fundamental deficiencies that exist in the current Syrian health care system will be thoroughly discussed along with proposed policy recommendations and a road map to help eliminate or diminish them. The paper will outline policies needed to develop and achieve a health care quality that meets the WHO standards and performance measures and form health information systems that facilitate the achievement of goals and objectives.
Even though a new health care policy will require financing which will be derived from the government health care expenditure, the expected cost saving that can be realized after the implementation of the suggested programs can be quite significant.
Considering the fact that health care reform in Syria is certainly a major task, a comprehensive feasibility study will be essential. Such study will be detailed below and will evaluate the demands of change, the available and needed resources and the prospects of success.
Public health and health care policy in any country are of critical importance that far exceeds the individual sense of wellbeing. This can be readily appreciated upon examining the health sector's contributions to the overall economy in developed countries.
In the European Union, for example , the health sector is one of the largest service industries and one of the most important sectors, where its output accounts for 7% of GDP which is larger than the 5% accounted for by the financial services, and it employs approximately 9% of all workers in these same countries .
The size of the health sector is just one reason to its importance. A robust and significant direct relation was noted in a number of studies between the state of health in a country and what is called in economy the "human capital". The basis for this relation is that good health increases the probability of participating in the labour force while poor health on the contrary can predict early retirement and exit from the labour force.
A direct relation also exists between the state of health in a society and the educational level of workers. A higher level of health correlates with more educated workers who are naturally more productive and able to obtain higher earnings. Some of these higher earnings are either invested in improving individual skills and education (intellectual capital) or invested directly back in the overall economy.
In an additional dimension of importance, good health in childhood was found to enhance cognitive functions and reduce school absence, hence children with better health are able to attain higher education levels and be more productive in the future.
A robust correlation is also believed to exist between the performance of the health sector and the competitiveness of the overall economy via its effect on labour cost, labour market flexibility and the allocation of resources at the macroeconomic level.
Many countries around the world today are experiencing health care challenges which are mostly related to unsustainable health care expenditures. A prominent European health care expert (Albert de Rosa) has warned of these challenges when he said "The world's health systems will, within the next 15 years, find themselves in an unsustainable situation if they do not carry out a number of important changes in their health policies."
Syria is no different than most other countries in that regard, except that in Syria there are additional critical flaws and challenges in the infrastructure of the Syrian health care system which compound the problem and affect quality.
This paper will examine in details the existing deficiencies and provide recommendations to establish reform in the Syrian health care system while keeping in mind that health care expenditures have to remain under control.
* Published in collaboration with Hivos