WHO head visits Israel, praises health infrastructure

On historic trip, Margaret Chan says country does more than other OECD states, while spending less

Aaron Kalman is a former writer and breaking news editor for the Times of Israel

Margaret Chan (left) meets with Shimon Peres in Jerusalem, Sunday (photo credit: Courtesy)
Margaret Chan (left) meets with Shimon Peres in Jerusalem, Sunday (photo credit: Courtesy)

World Health Organization director general Margaret Chan praised the country’s national health infrastructure Sunday in a meeting with President Shimon Peres on her first visit to Israel.

Chan praised Peres as a great leader who had dedicated his life to striving for peace. She also complimented Israel’s public health system, telling representatives from the Health Ministry that it was an example of a centralized, public system that also allowed for community and private medical practice.

“Israel spends less money on health than the average in the OECD, but the results are good and advanced,” Chan said. “I’ve come here to learn from your excellent health system.”

During 2011, the Health Ministry had a budget of NIS 19.9 billion ($5.5 billion) — some four percent of the country’s budget. In many OECD countries the healthcare budget was double that of Israel’s. The average spending in OECD countries was around 10% of each nation’s GDP; in Israel, it hovered slightly over the 2% mark.

“Israel would be happy to share its advanced technological developments [with the WHO],” Peres told his guest. It would also gladly act with the organization “for the health of the world, to abolish phenomena like world hunger, to advance agriculture and develop healthy food.”

The two, along with EU and Israeli government representatives, discussed the potential of new technologies, such as using the Internet to get medical information and exchanging professional knowledge among experts from around the world.

“I’m happy there is an international organization that allows for global learning and aid,” Peres said.

Chan later visited families of patients from Gaza hospitalized at Tel Aviv’s Dana Children’s Hospital.

She was scheduled to meet with Health Minister Yael German and visit the Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial Monday before heading to the West Bank to meet Palestinian Authority health officials.

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