Both Jewish and Arab citizens of Israel are entitled by law to health services subject to the National Health Insurance Law of 1995, which established the state’s responsibility to provide health services at a relatively low fee collected by the National Insurance Institute.
There are significant comparative differences in health indicators between Jewish and Arab citizens in Israel:
– Life expectancy among Arab citizens rose significantly since the establishment of the state, but the gap between Jews and Arabs increased.
– Among Arab men life expectancy today is around 77 compared with around 81 among Jewish men (a 4 years gap, vs. a 1.4 years gap in the 80s);
– Among Arab women life expectancy is around 81, compared with around 84 among Jewish women (a 3 years gap, vs. a 2.3 years gap in the 80s).
– The rate of at-home accidents and accidental deaths among Arab children is significantly higher than among Jewish children. In 2013, 50% of all children who died of accidents in Israel were Arab (although Arab children make up around 25% of Israel’s childhood population) and accidental injuries among Arab children were 3.3 times more than among Jewish children.
– Infant mortality rates (up to one year of age) are conventionally used as an important indicator of health status. The rate of infant mortality (per 1000 newborns) has declined dramatically within Arab society, yet infant mortality among Arabs is more than twice—and among Bedouin more than three times–that of Jewish infants.
– The percentage of adults living with disabilities is significantly higher among Israel’s Arab population (14%) than in the population at large (5%).
These differences are often attributed to the overall lower socio-economic status of the Arab population, which is correlated with substandard infrastructure and conditions in Arab localities and neighbourhoods (including three times the poverty rate than Jewish society, insufficient access to medical facilities, lower safety infrastructure and awareness, higher population density, etc.) and cultural-behavioural differences. There are a number of significant efforts among civil society organizations, local leadership and the government to address health gaps.
Arab employees in Israel’s healthcare system
“Ethnic diversity within the healthcare workforce is considered to play an important role in reducing health disparities among different ethnic populations.”Keshet & others, 2015 In recent years the percentages of Arab employees in the health system has increased dramatically and currently has the highest percentage of Arab employees in the public sector.
Despite these figures, Arab citizens of Israel are underrepresented in the overall health system comprising 9.5% of total employees, about 10% below their share in the Israeli society. While Arab men are well represented among Israeli physicians and in some other medical professions (In total they comprise 23.3% of medicine professionals in Israel), Arab women are underrepresented and comprise 7.7% of the total employees in medical system in Israel. Researchers point out that Arab women employment and education patterns impact their underrepresentation also in the health system.
Nevertheless the integration of Arab citizens of Israel in the health services is an area of substantial success in advancement and integration of Arab professionals in the Israeli labour market, with numerous Arab citizens comprising medical and paramedical Arab staff, including department heads in major hospitals and one hospital manager at the Galilee Medical Centre. Additionally according to a 2009 parliamentary study, about 19% of medical schools students are Arab, in all the medicine fields.
In some parts of Israel they are overrepresented; one extreme case is the Arab village Kfar Kara that holds the national record for the number of physicians relative to the population; a doctor for every 145 residents, more than twice the average in the Western world, most of whom studied outside of Israel.
Hospital programmes & research relating to Arab citizens of Israel
Hadassah Hospital, Jerusalem
– The Israeli Arabs Tissue Typing registry was established by Hadassah in October 2008, based on the fact that 40% of Arab patients did not have potential donors and that there was no such registry in the world.
– Hadasit – the Technology Transfer Company of Hadassah Medical Organization has launched in Afula WAYS, an incubator for joint Jewish-Arab biomed ventures in Northern Israel.
– Interview with Professor Eid, Hadassah’s Head of Surgery & Dr Darawshe, Head of Emergency Medicine
Shaare Zedek Hospital, Jerusalem
– Shaare Zedek is leading the Middle East Breast Cancer Study which includes 850+ Arab Israeli women
-Various research initiatives at the hospital exist specifically to advance the medical treatment of Arab patients. Medical departments including the Paediatric Dialysis Unit treat more Arab patients than from any other ethnic background.
Rambam Hospital, Haifa
– Arab citizens of Israel can volunteer at the hospital as part of their national civilian service, an alternative to serving in the IDF.
– Hospital classrooms in the children’s ward at Rambam Hospital all have an Arabic-speaking teacher and a Hebrew-speaking teacher
Nazareth Hospital (The English Hospital, Nazareth)
– Israel’s oldest working hospital (estd. 1861) hosts the only Arab school of nursing
– The Nazareth Hospital has the only psychiatric care facility in Israel whose staff is able to provide Arab patients with mental health services in Arabic.
– The hospital is the main centre for dialysis for Nazareth and nearby villages and deals with many complicated kidney patients due to the high rate of diabetes and renal failure among the Arab population in Israel.