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French Version

Health program makes headway in cutting treatment costs

Over 100,000 Lebanese suffer from chronic diseases in Lebanon, according to an annual report for "Medicine for Chronic Diseases Program" for the year 2005. "The success of such a program is critical in order to have a well-functioning and healthy society," said Health Minister Mohammad Khalifeh at a news conference on Thursday where the annual results of the "Medicine for Chronic Diseases Program" were being presented.

The public-health program is supported by the Health Ministry and hs been implemented by the Young Men's Christian Association (YMCA) since 1988. With over 2000 doctors and 400 clinics and health centers participating, the program cost around $17 million in 2005.

"While generally the program is working well, about 42 percent of the Lebanese population have no medical coverage at all and are in great need," said Khalifeh, who took the opportunity at this conference to stress the importance of "reforming" the Health Ministry and law pertaining to health and medicine.

"After many debates and delays, the Cabinet approved a new building for the Health Ministry last week. So reforms take time, and with patience and perseverance, hopefully we can reach a better level of health services in Lebanon," he said.

Khalifeh also revisited thebird-flu issue, given "global interest and concern."

"Lebanon has taken all the necessary preventative measures," he said, "and is prepared to deal with the disease if it should ever reach Lebanon."

According to the report, heart related diseases and blood pressure are the most common chronic diseases, with 56 percent of the beneficiaries from the program being treated for it. The second highest is diabetes at 14 percent, and the third cholesterol in blood at 12 percent.

"What is important to remember is the goal is to treat and reach everyone, regardless of their religious, political and geographical position," said Ghassan Sayyah, CEO of YMCA.

The program spans across Lebanon, with male and female recipient distributions of 42 percent and 58 percent respectively, with the larger number of recipients located in Mount Lebanon and in the South.

Recipients save about 70 percent of the costs of medications from the pharmacies, with the elderly and widows accounting for the majority of recipients, at 34 percent, and the second biggest group composed of the unemployed at 21 percent.

"The results show it is a critical program to continue supporting as many rely on it," said Sayyah. "We need to expand it with more cooperation and funding."

Beirut,02 21 2006
Rym Ghazal
The Daily Star
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