Monday,18 December, 2017
Current issue | Issue 1308, (18 -24 August 2016)
Monday,18 December, 2017
Issue 1308, (18 -24 August 2016)

Ahram Weekly

Right to health in Upper Egypt

A new campaign to improve access to healthcare has been launched in Upper Egypt, reports Mahmoud Bakr

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Al-Ahram Weekly

In cooperation with the National Council for Women, the Heya Center for Public Policy in the governorate of Qena has launched a new campaign entitled “Our Health is Our Right”.

The campaign is part of a three-year development programme that aims to support women’s active leadership in public affairs and is being implemented in a number of Arab countries with the support of the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (SIDA) .  Our Health is Our Right Campaign aims to raise health awareness through promoting and publishing the drafted public policy papers written by Heya women trainees.

Some of the papers were discussed at a roundtable with decision-makers and experts in the field in February at the Al-Ahram Regional Institute for Journalism in Cairo. Dr.Hiam Elgousi, Heya Center executive director In Egypt, told Al-Ahram Weekly that “many associations participated in the campaign, which helped us reach more women in Lower and Upper Egypt and spread health awareness.”

The idea of the campaign came “after the number of public policy papers that the women trainees presented on issues related to health” had been sifted, she said. It aims to “shed light on the important role civil society organisations play in this regard. Among the activities of the campaign is producing films that promote health education. These will be produced after a contest for those interested in cinema production to produce films that cover Lower and Upper Egypt,” she added.

Ahmed Abdel-Hamid, Heya Center for Public Policy regional director, explained that “the centre previously announced a contest entitled ‘Our Health is Our Right’ at the beginning of 2016 through financing low-budget short films that discussed health-related subjects.” The films were screened in different governorates along with readings of policy papers promoting better policies for improved healthcare in Egypt.

“The Heya Center for Public Policy itself produced a short film about a healthcare-related issue in Egypt. The film was then screened as part of an ‘Our Health is Our Right’ tour of different governorates. Other winning film producers were invited to talk about their films in meetings locally and regionally,” Abdel-Hamid said.

The winning films  will be screened in a number of Arab countries, including Jordan, Tunisia, Lebanon and Yemen,

“The Heya Center for Public Policy is an affiliate of the  development program “Arab women Policy Center - WPC” pointed out Abdel-Hamid. “During the past two years, the Heya Center for Public Policy has been searching for women with leadership qualities in different governorates, among them Alexandria, Cairo, Giza, South Sinai, Qena and Beheira. The women were trained how to analyse public policies until they were able to write policy papers that explained how women could help solve problems facing society on policy level, especially in healthcare,” Abdel-Hamid told the Weekly.

The Heya Center for Public Policy as a research centre functions in a number of Middle Eastern and North African countries, among them Egypt, Jordan, Tunisia, Lebanon and Yemen, and it focuses on empowering women’s leadership in the field of analysing and drawing up public policies, enhancing women’s abilities in governance and democracy by conducting research studies, and implementing programmes that serve the purpose of the Heya Center for Public Policy, Abdel-Hamid explained.

“A set of civic values govern us at the Heya Center for Public Policy, and these include sharing, transparency, respecting diversity, integrity, innovation and creativity,” he said.

Ahmed Al-Assal, the Heya Center for Public Policy regional coordinator, told the Weekly that the “Our Health is Our Right” campaign was “the result of workshops conducted for women leaders in Egyptian society to produce public policy papers that discuss society’s most pressing problems, while coming up with visions and solutions for these problems through writing papers and analysing the government policies.”

“It is crucial for women, especially young women from the governorates, to participate in coming up with a healthcare vision that suits conditions in the countryside,” said Enayat Al-Sayed, head of the National Council for Women in the Qena governorate. “This will result in increased women’s participation in all fields, helping to guarantee that women’s voices will be heard, especially those of poorer and marginalised women, so that they can enjoy better healthcare services.”

One of the Heya Center for Public Policy trainees, Hanan Mustafa, believes in the importance of producing public policy papers that identify problems facing the healthcare sector, the means to solve them, and the Heya Center for Public Policy vision to push for a healthcare insurance law. The main problem, Mustafa says, is that some “doctors, nurses and technicians are currently not well-trained. The healthcare administration is weak, and services are not pushed in the right direction, especially in more distant areas. There is little quality control, and the money allocated for healthcare has been decreasing year after year.”

Mustafa drew attention to the problem of inconsistent policies adopted by consecutive health ministers that has resulted in people’s inability to get high-quality healthcare in many parts of the country. “This is in addition to the low salaries often earned by healthcare sector workers, whether in the public or private sectors,” she said.

Another HEYA Center for Public Policy trainee from Upper Egypt, Nagwa Hamed, who has written a policy paper in the healthcare field, said that “health insurance should be available more widely in Egypt. Hospitals affiliated with the ministry of health should be developed, and their services should be made available to everyone. The services should be funded through health insurance contributions,” she said.

Health education in schools should also be improved, Hamed said. “The monitoring of food and water should be strictly implemented, and the pharmaceutical industry in Egypt should be developed. Training should be taken to higher levels across all medical sectors, especially in emergency units, in addition to enhancing services at public hospitals and healthcare units,” she concluded.

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