Living conditions in Iraq must improve if investment in health system is to yield results

Living conditions in Iraq: 10 years after the US-led invasion

From Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine

Despite enormous investment in Iraq’s health system in the 10 years since the US-led invasion, the health condition of Iraqis has deteriorated and will fail to improve unless more is done to improve living conditions. This review concludes that continual investment in health services is crucial to elevate the health status of the Iraqi population, but that progress will be limited without improvements in housing, water and sanitation, electricity, transport, agriculture, education and employment.

The study was carried out by public health doctors from Imperial College London and Wayne State University, Detroit, who carried out several field visits to Iraq between 2011 and 2013. Professor Salman Rawaf who led the review, said: “There have been many attempts to come up with solutions that can help channel the resources needed to make Iraq’s health system more effective. But our review showed that strategists and planners have a blind spot when it comes to the work that needs to be done to improve all aspects of living which play a vital role in positively affecting the health status of the people.”  He concluded He added: “Iraq’s abundant natural and human resource base can be a valuable source for the revival of its economy and coherent social structure. Iraq’s contribution to the regional development will be significant.


In the early 1980s, Iraq was a middle-income and rapidly developing country with a well-developed health system. A few decades later – after wars, sanctions and a violent sectarian upsurge – child and maternal health indicators have deteriorated, its poverty headcount index is at 22.9% and diseases such as cholera have remerged. Today Iraq is beset by chronic political deadlock and a complexity of economic challenges; accordingly, all aspects of life are suffering, including health. Irrespective of the monumental investment to improve components of the health system, via national and international efforts, the health status of the population can only advance through resounding and synergistic effort in other aspects of life affecting health: the social determinants of health.


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Article details
S Rawaf, S Hassounah, E Dubois, B Abdalrahman, M Raheem, H Jamil, and A Majeed
Living conditions in Iraq: 10 years after the US-led invasion J R Soc Med May 2014 107: 187-193, doi:10.1177/0141076814530684




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