Towards the establishment of a global health institute in the Middle East and North Africa
The Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region is at the epicentre of many large-scale humanitarian crises that are altering the nature and magnitude of health demands and related service delivery. The health needs of individuals in host countries or escaping war zones remain underserved or unmet entirely. Of specific concern is the impact of displacement and war on women and children. Acute and abrupt shifts in lives and livelihoods translates to sudden changes in gender roles, societal norms, and familial burdens — often disproportionately shouldered by women and young girls. Countries of the MENA region are also witnessing a nutrition transition from traditional to more westernized diets, giving rise to alarming rates of obesity and exacerbating economic and disease burdens. Although these experiences are pronounced in MENA, they are not unique to the region.
The Global Health Institute, which will be housed at the American University of Beirut, in Lebanon, will address pressing challenges to health and development in MENA through applied research programs on topics of particular concern to the region. The Institute will serve as a hub for engaging regional thought leaders and emerging researchers to encourage dialogue and exchange, and to strengthen the collective voice and impact of their efforts. A dedicated focus on supporting a body of high quality and locally generated knowledge on issues such as refugee health, conflict medicine, poor nutrition, obesity, and related diseases will position the Institute to actively shape research agendas, policies, and actions. At present, these are defined, in large part, by individuals and institutions based outside the region.
The Institute will also serve as an incubator for investigating innovative and context-specific methods to address global health challenges, focus on developing capacity and fostering leaders, and organize products and platforms to showcase Global South perspectives.