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Open Access Case study

Building cooperation through health initiatives: an Arab and Israeli case study

Harvey A Skinner12* and Abi Sriharan23

Author Affiliations

1 Dean, Faculty of Health, York University, 4700 Keele Street, Toronto, ON, M3J 1P3, Canada

2 Canada International Scientific Exchange Program (CISEPO), Toronto, Canada

3 Deputy Director, Peter A. Silverman Centre for International Health, Mount Sinai Hospital, 600 University Ave, Toronto, M5G 1X5, Canada

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Conflict and Health 2007, 1:8  doi:10.1186/1752-1505-1-8

Published: 17 July 2007

Abstract

Background

Ongoing conflict in the Middle East poses a major threat to health and security. A project screening Arab and Israeli newborns for hearing loss provided an opportunity to evaluate ways for building cooperation. The aims of this study were to: a) examine what attracted Israeli, Jordanian and Palestinian participants to the project, b) describe challenges they faced, and c) draw lessons learned for guiding cross-border health initiatives.

Methods

A case study method was used involving 12 key informants stratified by country (3 Israeli, 3 Jordanian, 3 Palestinian, 3 Canadian). In-depth interviews were tape-recorded, transcribed and analyzed using an inductive qualitative approach to derive key themes.

Results

Major reasons for getting involved included: concern over an important health problem, curiosity about neighbors and opportunities for professional advancement. Participants were attracted to prospects for opening the dialogue, building relationships and facilitating cooperation in the region. The political situation was a major challenge that delayed implementation of the project and placed participants under social pressure. Among lessons learned, fostering personal relationships was viewed as critical for success of this initiative.

Conclusion

Arab and Israeli health professionals were prepared to get involved for two types of reasons: a) Project Level: opportunity to address a significant health issue (e.g. congenital hearing loss) while enhancing their professional careers, and b) Meta Level: concern about taking positive steps for building cooperation in the region. We invite discussion about roles that health professionals can play in building "cooperation networks" for underpinning health security, conflict resolution and global health promotion.