Wafaa Fawzy Hamza / Researcher
The increasing growth of the population in Iraq – which exceeded 40 million people – was accompanied by the failure to develop medical health institutions in a way that suits this increase. The weak infrastructure of these institutions and the spread of corruption in their sectors continued, coinciding with the emergence of different types of infectious epidemic strains, which crossed the borders of countries and killed many lives.
Iraq is still bearing the losses that resulted from these epidemics at all levels; A percentage that may exceed those that occurred in other countries that do not have the financial resources available to Iraq, and with the continued loss of medical competencies; As a result of immigration, and the increase in the gap between supply and demand in the workforce in the health field, which led to an increase in dependence on foreign labor, or travel outside the country; to receive health services.
The Iraqi health system, in its present form, operates with a policy of trying treatment instead of prevention, that is: it waits for the disease to occur, and then begins treating it instead of avoiding it by promoting the principle of prevention. A good example of this is the problem of people with chronic diseases, heart and vascular diseases, whose diseases are not detected early enough that they can be treated, instead of continuing with painkillers or turning them into a chronic disease that does not leave the patient’s body and needs continuous medical care.
These factors have combined to create continuous change; It reinforces the severity of the major challenges facing the health system in Iraq, as well as the health problems that are beginning to face the medical sector in Iraq. Its old health problems – represented by infectious diseases, the high rate of people with cancer, immunodeficiency diseases, diabetes, and others – were added to it, as other problems emerged, represented by the weak equitable geographical distribution of health services provided to citizens. As well as the high cost of these services, with the allocation of large budgets, and the mobilization of human cadres in the health sector in times of crisis. However, there is still a weakness in the provision of comprehensive health care, which is almost non-existent in remote areas.
At this point, it is necessary to pay attention to the experiences of developed countries and their work in addressing such challenges, as they succeeded in inventing a digital health system that helped to get rid of many obstacles that prevented the implementation of the comprehensive health care system.
The World Health Assembly in 2005, through its resolutions on e-health, urged the Member States to develop a long-term strategic plan; To develop and implement e-health services, including ICT infrastructures for health, to promote universal, equitable, and cost-effective access to all citizens and groups of society. Member states have created a common vision for e-health, in line with the priorities and available health resources for each country, with an action plan, and a time frame for monitoring and evaluating the implementation of the e-health system. The number of the Member States involved in the relevant resolution was 120, including low- and middle-income countries.
In 2013, the World Health Assembly unified e-health standards and their applicability, as well as considering the development of policies and legislative mechanisms linked to a comprehensive national e-health strategy, based on these decisions, and recognizing the need to strengthen the implementation of digital health mechanisms; After that, the Global Digital Health Strategy 2020-2025 was approved, based on the digital revolution that has swept the world in our time. With governments turning to digital transformation projects at all levels, as well as in the implementation of the documents signed with the United Nations – concerning Iraq – regarding achieving the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals, the need to harness information and communication technology to achieve these goals, especially those related to health care, has emerged. There is a growing consensus in the global health community that the strategic and innovative use of advanced information and communication technologies in the health sector; will be a key factor in ensuring that one billion people will benefit from universal health coverage, and will enjoy better health care and protection in the future.