July 19, 2024

Recognised for my achievements, I was featured in Avance Media’s list of 100 Most Influential African Women in 2020. Notable successes include the elimination of hepatitis C and the establishment of a universal health coverage programme in Egypt. I played a pivotal role in national efforts against Covid-19.

What does your current role at ACCESS Health International involve?

In my role, I lead the efforts of a non-profit organisation committed to improving access to high-quality healthcare and fostering innovation in healthcare delivery. Globally, ACCESS Health collaborates with governments, healthcare providers, and stakeholders to address healthcare challenges and develop sustainable solutions. The organisation’s focus is on research, sharing best practices, and implementing innovative care models to bring about positive transformations in the healthcare sector.

Our overarching mission includes achieving universal health coverage, strengthening health systems and enhancing the quality of care for individuals and communities. We engage in diverse initiatives, spanning areas such as ageing populations, maternal and child health, digital health technologies, and the strengthening of primary care.

Beyond project work, we facilitate knowledge exchange through conferences, workshops, publications and partnerships with academic institutions. Our ultimate objective is to improve the overall wellbeing of populations by ensuring equitable access to affordable healthcare services and promoting innovation in care delivery.

What has been the proudest moment of your career?

I have two indelible moments in my professional path. The first occurred in June 2019, with the successful initiation of the universal health insurance system in Port Said Governorate – a historic milestone for Egypt.

The second noteworthy moment unfolded in October 2023 when the World Health Organization (WHO) bestowed a prestigious golden tier certificate upon Egypt. This recognition was for the nation’s exceptional efforts in eliminating hepatitis C, making Egypt the first country worldwide to reach this significant achievement – an effort I had been leading for several years.

The Middle East and Africa region is at the forefront of global news coverage due to the conflict in Israel and Gaza. Is there appropriate healthcare provision for those affected in the area and how can it be accessed?

The conflict in Israel and Gaza has had a profound impact on healthcare provision in the region, presenting a complex situation with challenges to accessing healthcare due to factors like damaged infrastructure, limited resources, and security concerns.

Humanitarian organisations play a critical role in conflict-affected areas by establishing temporary clinics or hospitals, providing emergency medical supplies, and supporting local healthcare facilities to ensure affected populations receive appropriate care. Governments and local health authorities also work to sustain essential healthcare services, establishing dedicated facilities for emergencies, and collaborating with international aid agencies.

The ongoing conflict poses an unprecedented challenge as most health facilities [in Gaza] are rendered inoperable. Medical teams grapple with injuries and fatalities, and interruptions to necessities like clean water, electricity, and sanitation amplify the crisis. The scale of these events is deemed catastrophic, bringing forth significant threats to the emergence of epidemics and health disasters. In certain hospitals, the distressing situation involves bodies decomposing without proper burial due to being located under buildings demolished by air strikes – an inaccessible scenario. Humanitarian aid encounters difficulties reaching affected areas, falling short of requirements. Access to healthcare services becomes nearly impossible, complicating the evacuation of the wounded and innocent people to safety within this catastrophic scenario.

The conflict in Israel and Gaza has had a profound impact on healthcare provision in the region

With humanitarian corridors being opened into Egypt, how will its system of universal healthcare – which you helped to set up – cope with the increased pressure?

Since the beginning, the Egyptian government has been proactive in anticipating this situation. It has equipped three hospitals in North Sinai Governorate to handle the wounded, and around 27,000 beds in approximately 27 hospitals – particularly those along the Suez Canal line where the universal health insurance system hospitals are situated – are ready for use.

Furthermore, the Egyptian government has prepared a significant number of medical professionals across various specialties to effectively manage the crisis. Preventive measures – including strengthening the epidemic surveillance system and administering vaccinations to individuals crossing borders – have been implemented.

To show support, substantial quantities of medicines and medical supplies are being transported to the Palestinian side, aiding local hospitals in addressing the challenges posed by the crisis.

How is technology benefitting healthcare systems in the MEA region?

In the MEA region, technology is playing a crucial role in revolutionising healthcare systems, introducing several solutions that enhance healthcare services:

Telemedicine and remote care
Technology allows for remote consultations, granting patients access to healthcare services from their homes or distant locations. This is advantageous for individuals in rural or underserved areas with limited access to healthcare facilities. Telemedicine supports follow-up care, chronic disease management, and reduces unnecessary hospital visits.

Electronic health records (EHRs)
Digital health records enhance the efficiency, accuracy and accessibility of patient information. EHRs facilitate seamless sharing of medical data among healthcare providers, reducing test duplication and improving care co-ordination across different facilities.

Health information exchange (HIE)
HIE platforms securely share patient data among various healthcare organisations within a region or country. This interoperability enhances care co-ordination, decreases medical errors, and improves overall patient outcomes.

Mobile health (mHealth) applications
Mobile apps offer various health-related services, including appointment scheduling, medication reminders, fitness tracking, mental health support, and access to educational resources. mHealth applications empower individuals to manage their health and enhance communication with healthcare providers.

Artificial intelligence (AI) in diagnostics
AI technologies swiftly and accurately analyse extensive medical data, assisting in diagnostic processes such as radiology imaging interpretation or pathology analysis. AI algorithms enhance efficiency in detecting abnormalities compared to traditional methods.

Data analytics for population health management
Advanced analytics tools enable healthcare systems to effectively analyse population-level health data trends. This helps identify public health risks early, optimise resource allocation, and develop targeted interventions for specific communities or diseases.

Remote monitoring devices
Technological advancements have led to wearable devices that remotely monitor vital signs. These devices ensure continuous health condition monitoring, allowing healthcare providers to intervene promptly when necessary.

Health education and awareness
Technology provides platforms for disseminating health information, conducting awareness campaigns, and educating individuals about preventive measures. This empowers people to make informed decisions about their health and wellbeing.

How can efficient healthcare management benefit the local and global population?

Efficient healthcare management offers numerous advantages for both local and global populations:

Enhanced accessibility to care
Streamlining resource allocation, reducing wait times, and implementing strategies for underserved populations ensure fair access to healthcare services, regardless of socioeconomic status or geographical location.

Elevated quality of care
It prioritises evidence-based practices, adherence to clinical guidelines, and continuous improvement initiatives. This emphasis on patient safety, effective treatment protocols, and positive patient experiences leads to improved health outcomes.

The ongoing conflict poses an unprecedented challenge as most health facilities are rendered inoperable

Cost efficiency
Through optimised resource utilisation, error reduction, and improved operational efficiency, efficient healthcare management achieves cost savings. These funds can be reinvested in expanding access, enhancing infrastructure, and overall care delivery.

Enhanced health outcomes
Prioritising preventive measures, early intervention, and evidence-based treatments ensures timely access to care and promotes health screenings and vaccinations. This approach contributes to improved health outcomes by reducing morbidity rates and effectively managing chronic conditions.

Public health readiness
It is crucial for public health preparedness during emergencies such as disease outbreaks or natural disasters. Robust surveillance systems, emergency response plans, stakeholder coordination, and ensuring ample resources help mitigate the impact of crises.

Encouraging research and innovation
Fostering an environment supporting research initiatives, collaboration between academia and healthcare providers, and the implementation of evidence-based practices encourages advancements in medical knowledge, technology, and treatment modalities. This leads to improved patient care and the development of solutions for emerging health challenges.

Global health co-operation
It encourages collaboration between countries and international organisations to collectively address global health challenges. Sharing best practices, exchanging knowledge and co-ordinating efforts on issues like infectious diseases, pandemic response, or public health policies contribute to improving global population health.

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