|Health Projects Contribute to Major Reductions in Infant Mortality
The Israel Ministry of Health, Ben-Gurion University of the Negev and NISPED – AJEEC work together with women’s groups, the Arab-Bedouin community and local religious leaders (Imams) to confront the major issues affecting infant mortality and morbidity.
The Women and Children’s Health Promotion Initiative is a collaborative project of NISPED-AJEEC, Ben-Gurion University of the Negev and Community Centers in Kseife, Rahat and Hura. The initiative addresses the tremendous gaps in health between the Bedouin and Jewish communities of the Negev including an infant mortality rate of 8.5 percent (as opposed to 4.7 percent among Jews). Nonetheless, the good news is that in recent years, as a result of such programs, infant mortality in the Arab-Bedouin community has been halved (from 16.8 in 2004).
The Community Outreach Program for the Development of Health Promotion Capacities among the Arab Bedouin of the Negev was designed and initiated by NISPED-AJEEC in 2008-9 in cooperation with the Faculty of Health Sciences at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev. It is a component of a more comprehensive program for the reduction of the infant mortality rate in the Arab Bedouin population conducted by the Faculty of Health Sciences over the past three years, which has come to an end for lack of further funds. The steering committee of this program was composed of a broad coalition of representatives of the target community, department heads of the Health Sciences faculty, and representatives of the various health funds and government agencies providing health and social welfare services for the community.
In 2008-9 AJEEC trained an initial contingent of 18 health promoters from the community, who in turn organized 9 groups of women in 7 Bedouin towns and villages, each of which met for 12 sessions – a total of some 200 direct participants; in addition, some 120 community leaders participated in a workshop dealing with the problems of infant mortality and birth defects, including 40 imams who undertook to deal with the issues involved in their Friday sermons. Furthermore, instructional and training materials were prepared for use in the program and a broad scale public awareness campaign is underway in the local Arabic – language radio.
It should be noted that recognizing the importance of respecting cultural and religious realities, this is the first such project to incorporate the active participation of local Imams (Muslim religious leaders).