Even in the same city, Arab infant mortality rates far higher than among Jews

Health Ministry report reveals wide health gaps between populations, as well as between residents of rich and poor areas

Illustrative: Babies born prematurely at Jerusalem's Shaare Zedek hospital on January 5, 2015. (Hadas Parush/Flash90)
Illustrative: Babies born prematurely at Jerusalem's Shaare Zedek hospital on January 5, 2015. (Hadas Parush/Flash90)

A Health Ministry report slated for release Monday revealed that infant mortality rates among Arab Israelis was significantly higher than among Israeli Jews, including in cities with mixed populations.

The report, titled “The National Challenge of Reducing Inequality in the Health System,” tracks differences in life expectancy and mortality rates across the country, as well as between Jews and Arabs.

Although Israel’s overall infant mortality rate in 2016 stood at 3.1 deaths per 1,000 births, which is lower than the average in developed countries, the rate among Arabs was nearly three times higher than among Jews — 6.2 to 2.2, respectively, according to the Yedioth Ahronoth daily, which published details of the report ahead of its release.

In the south, the infant mortality rate stood at a staggering 11 infant deaths per 1,000 births among Arabs, as opposed to the rate among Jews, which along with the north was the highest rate among Jews nationwide.

Even in cities with mixed populations, the infant mortality rate was noticeably higher among Arabs.

In Tel Aviv, which includes the largely Arab area of Jaffa, the infant mortality rate among Arabs averaged 8.2 deaths per 1,000 births, more than four times higher than the two deaths per 1,000 births among Jewish babies in the city.

In Jerusalem, there were six deaths per 1,000 births among the city’s Arab residents, as opposed to two for Jews, while in Haifa the rates were four and 2.2 deaths per 1,000 births among Arabs and Jews, respectively.

Nationwide, the locality with the lowest infant mortality rates for Arabs was Haifa, while for Jews it was the cities of central Israel, with 1.7 deaths per 1,000 births.

The average infant mortality rate in 2015 among countries in the OECD, a grouping of mostly wealth nations, was 3.9 deaths per 1,000 births, and Israel’s overall rate was lower than such economic powerhouses as Germany, the United Kingdom and the United States.

A newly born baby is seen at the English Mission Hospital in the northern city of Nazareth on October 31, 2012. (Moshe Shai/Flash90)

The report also included data on the overall mortality rate, which was highest in Beersheba and the Jezreel Valley, at 5.6 deaths per 1,000 people. Jewish residents of the West Bank had the lowest mortality rate among Israeli citizens, at 3.8 deaths per 1,000 people.

In cities with over 100,000 residents, Ramat Gan had the highest life expectancy, at 84.4 years, while the major city with the lowest life expectancy was Beersheba, at 81.

While life expectancy in the so-called periphery — communities in Israel’s north and south removed from major population centers — continued to lag behind the center of the country, overall life expectancy rose among all major population groups in 2016.

Arab women have an average life expectancy of 81.4 years, up 0.3 years over the year before. Arab men saw a similar rise in their life expectancy, which averages 77.2 years.

For Jewish women, life expectancy rose by 0.2 years to 84.7 years, while for Jewish men it rose by 0.6 years to 81.5 — more than four years more than Arab men.

Moshe Bar Siman Tov, the director-general of the Health Ministry, said the report showed the need for Israel to better address health inequality, which he said stemmed largely from “socioeconomic gaps whose origin is outside the health system.”

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