The politics of Palestinian health
Richard Horton speaking at the Lancet-Palestinian Health Alliance Conference in Cairo, March 2013
Science is political. I want to use science as a political instrument to promote social justice. Dr Richard Horton, editor of the Lancet
In March, Medical Aid for Palestinians supported the fourth Lancet Palestinian Health Alliance (LPHA) conference, held in Cairo from 18-19 March.
Organised by the Institute of Community and Public Health (ICPH) at Birzeit University and the American University of Beirut, the conference focused on the 'Health of Palestinians inside and outside the Occupied Palestinian Territory'.
The LPHA is a network of Palestinian and international researchers committed to using the highest scientific standards to describe, analyse and evaluate the health and healthcare of Palestinians.
Established in 2009, the alliance aims to ensure that a Palestinian voice is included within international scientific literature and to contribute to the development of local, evidence-based policy and practice.
Led by Dr Horton and a group of around 20 academics, it provides the challenge, the opportunity and the necessary support to produce and present research findings that are subject to high level peer review, with a view to subsequent publication.
Many LPHA research findings deserve to be more widely known in order to make an impact. This year's presentations included the medical consequences of Israel's offensive on Gaza in November 2012; the psychosocial health of Palestinian children in the aftermath of the attack; the risks of chronic exposure to demeaning political violence; and sniper femoral syndrome as an example of psychological warfare against civilians.
More unspoken issues affecting Palestinian health, such as economic decline and environmental degradation were also explored, while papers on perceptions of drug abuse and sexual behaviour among adolescents in the West Bank; the impact of infertility on women in occupied Palestine; and a story of discrimination surrounding Palestinian breast cancer patients in Israel brought to light some fascinating new research.
The LPHA's key aims are to build capacity for research; to develop scientific methods that are culture-specific; to increase academic collaboration - within occupied Palestine, Lebanon and across the region - and to engage in advocacy based on science.
Dr Richard Horton's keynote speech hinged on the notion of accountability, which has become something of a watchword in global health. We have a historic opportunity, he suggested, to use this growing interest in accountability and "to put science in the service of social justice and self-determination."