BODY AND MIND

Jordan 2019 | HEALTH | INTERVIEW

The Jordanian Ministry of Health is focusing on developing the country as a destination for medical tourism and making sure Jordanians live healthier, happier, and longer lives.

BIOGRAPHY
Dr. Ghazi Mansour Al Zaben holds a BA in medicine. He is a member of the Jordanian Board of General Surgery and the Jordanian Board of Plastic Surgery. He has held many posts, including Head of Specialty Plastic Surgery at the Royal Medical Services, member of the examination committee of the Jordanian Board of Plastic Surgery, Member of the Advisory Council in Amman Governorate, Chairman of the Health and Environment Committee of the 14th Parliament for three sessions, as well as Dean of the Royal Medical Services. Dr. Zaben is also a former member of the 14th House of Representatives and a former senator.

Already a regional and global leader in medical tourism, how will Jordan's Economic Growth Plan 2018-2022 further improve healthcare quality and medical tourism?

Health tourism is considered one of Jordan's most important sources of national income, and Jordan is considered one of top-five most important countries in the world in the field of health tourism, thanks to the Kingdom's wide variety of medical products used in health tourism and healing. Jordan is considered an oasis of safety and stability, making it the preferred destination for tourism, especially health tourism. It is necessary to look for and find investors to participate in this sector, considering the Kingdom's natural resources, such as the Dead Sea and the many natural water springs renowned for their healing capabilities. It is also important to look for new markets that are interested in health and wellness tourism, especially in African countries and former Soviet countries. As for the stakeholders that already work in the sector, they need to work together to create new packages that will improve this sector. We should work on creating an electronic gateway for health tourism under the umbrella of the Ministry of Health.

What role can technology and digitalization play in advancing the healthcare sector overall?

ICT has a role in supporting healthcare and all the fields related to it, including healthcare services, health monitoring, health literature, health research, and literacy. Linking ICT capabilities with healthcare services helps to increase the accessibility of healthcare services, particularly reproductive health services; reduce the number of premature deaths caused by non-communicable diseases; enhance health monitoring; and increase the safety and quality of healthcare provided. Thus far, the ministry has implemented electronic services in 20 hospitals and 151 health centers. Further efforts include applying data governance and protection policies throughout the digitization of central directorates. The Ministry of Health's digitalization efforts are integrated with other government systems, including for migrants' records.

Another priority for the healthcare sector in Jordan is promoting primary healthcare. What is the ministry's strategy to achieve this aim, and how do PPPs play a role in enhancing the healthcare sector?

Health education is one of the basic elements of primary healthcare. Promoting healthy lifestyles is one of the ministry's important objectives because of the increasing prevalence of noncommunicable diseases, mostly due to unhealthy habits. One of the ways we work toward this goal of promoting more healthy lifestyles and increasing the quality of healthcare services is through our Community Health Committees (CHCs), which form an important link between the community, primary healthcare centers, and the health directorate. Members of each CHC develop local health promotion plans that are based self-identified community needs and priorities. This active involvement of the communities helps define essential health services delivery.

Pharmaceuticals, including pharmaceutical exports, are a key strength in Jordan's health sector and area. How is the Ministry supporting a conducive environment for a thriving pharmaceuticals industry?

The Jordan Food and Drug Administration (JFDA), since its creation in 2003, has played a crucial role in the healthcare system. As JFDA is the sole institution overseeing the regulation of pharmaceuticals, it supports, enables, and raises the level of the industry. Collaboration between JFDA and local pharmaceutical sector has allowed us to create compatible regulations and demonstrate a viable model for cooperation.