The Health of the Arab Israeli Population (English/Hebrew Available)

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Avialable in Hebrew here.

The health of the Arab Israeli population is improving, along with that of Israel’s Jewish population. In terms of life expectancy and infant mortality rates, the Arab Israeli population ranks highest in the Arab and Muslim world. However, there are still sizable gaps in infant mortality rates (4 per 1,000 live births) and life expectancy (4 years) between Jewish and Arab Israelis — especially Muslim Arabs. Moreover, these gaps are not shrinking in absolute terms; with regard to life expectancy, particularly for men, the gap is actually widening.

The relatively high incidence of congenital disorders in the Arab Israeli population may explain the infant mortality gap between the sectors. This gap is a major factor in the life expectancy disparity between the two populations, and in the disparity’s persistence. Additionally, a relatively high incidence of road accidents and chronic, smoking-related lower respiratory disease among Arab Israelis may explain the growing life expectancy gap between the two populations, especially for men. Diabetes also appears to be a major cause of mortality that distinguishes between the Arab Israeli and Jewish populations — accounting for a 2.25-fold difference in fatality rates.

In general, the socioeconomic advancement of Israel’s weaker populations, and the narrowing of economic gaps, with all of its implications for healthy behavior and healthcare services, will help reduce the average health disparities between the two groups, since the Arab Israeli sector is disproportionately represented in the country’s weaker populations. This long-term mission requires intensive preliminary activity on the part of the state to improve accessibility to healthcare services, especially to medical specialists, in Israel’s geographic periphery, through allocation mechanisms (risk adjusted capitation and investment) and incentives (specialist wages).

At the same time, the particular cultural issues and needs of Israeli Arabs and the various sub-populations among them cannot be ignored. Attention should be focused on quality care, including prevention, of risk and mortality factors that characterize the Arab Israeli population — congenital disorders, accidents and smoking-related diseases. No less important is a focus on obesity and diabetes. Community clinics in Arab Israeli areas should be invested in to implement this care. Regarding challenges in medical access related to language, the large-scale presence of Arab Israeli employees in the Israeli healthcare system should be utilized across the system’s entire array of professional services, to improve the health status of this population.