Cover: Population Health Management and the Second Golden Age of Arab Medicine

Population Health Management and the Second Golden Age of Arab Medicine

Promoting Health, Localizing Knowledge Industries, and Diversifying Economies in the GCC Countries

Published Feb 16, 2015

by Soeren Mattke, Lauren E. Hunter, Madeline Magnuson, Aziza Arifkhanova

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تدبير صحة السكان والعصر الذهبي الثاني للطب العربي

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Research Questions

  1. What are the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries' health care needs?
  2. How should the GCC countries construct their health care systems to meet these needs?

Over the past half-century, the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries — Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates — have experienced rapid economic growth and, with it, dramatic lifestyle changes. Low levels of physical activity and calorie-dense diets have led to an increase in the prevalence of chronic disease, most prominently diabetes. After having successfully controlled communicable diseases and made advanced acute care accessible locally, the GCC countries now face the challenge of orienting their health care systems toward prevention and treatment of chronic diseases. In this report, Dr. Mattke and his colleagues argue that this challenge presents GCC countries with a historic opportunity to reestablish the thought leadership role that Arab medicine had in the Islamic Golden Age. They propose that GCC countries could apply their considerable wealth to design and implement innovative health care systems based on population health management principles and sophisticated health information technology. Taking this path would not only improve prevention and management of chronic disease in the GCC countries but also contribute to the diversification of their economies and localization of knowledge industries.

Key Findings

The Increase of Lifestyle-Related Diseases Is Overwhelming the Health Care Systems of Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) Countries

  • The unprecedented growth in wealth in the GCC countries has been accompanied by a shift toward less healthy diets and more sedentary lifestyles.
  • Obesity is a major problem in GCC countries, and the high rates of obesity among younger cohorts are especially alarming. In each of the GCC countries, the prevalence of diabetes is more than double the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) average.
  • GCC countries' health care systems are not well equipped to prevent chronic diseases, diagnose them early, and manage them effectively.

Western Models Offer Cautionary Lessons for the GCC Countries

  • Western countries do not invest sufficiently in interoperable information technology.
  • Countries do not engage in significant performance monitoring and improvement.
  • Payment systems are not aligned with desired outcomes, resulting in ineffective and inefficient health care delivery systems.
  • Consumers are not sufficiently engaged in their own care.

GCC Countries Have an Unprecedented Opportunity

  • The GCC countries are well positioned to build a health care system of the future from the ground up, relatively free of the entrenched stakeholders that hold back the systems of most developed and many developing countries.
  • By pioneering a health care system based on population health management principles and sophisticated health information technology, the GCC countries have an opportunity to make Arab medicine again the beacon of progress that it was centuries ago.

Research conducted by

This research was conducted by RAND Health Advisory Services, the consulting practice of RAND Health.

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