eljardali1_PATRICK BAZAFP via Getty Images_lebanondoctorsprotest Patrick Baz/AFP via Getty Images

Lebanon’s Next Government Should Focus on Health

Lebanon’s new government has an opportunity to lay the foundations for a more stable, equitable, and prosperous future. Reimagining the health system would go a long way toward securing the strong and consistent public support it will need if it is to succeed.

BEIRUT – A massive protest movement has swept across Lebanon. The immediate trigger was a proposed tax on gasoline, tobacco, and some social-media platforms, including WhatsApp. But the ground for unrest was fertile, owing to vast and growing economic, social, environmental, and health disparities, which the next government – led by an as-yet-unnamed prime minister – must commit to addressing. If Lebanon’s leaders are to meet protesters’ demands for greater equity and social justice, they must begin with far-reaching reforms to the public-health system.

To be sure, Lebanon’s leaders have failed its people in myriad ways. Through a combination of corruption and incompetence, they have steadily depleted the country’s resources – Lebanon’s debt-to-GDP ratio is among the world’s highest – and allowed a waste-management crisis to grow. Civil wars, invasions, and other crises have hastened the economy’s decline, contributing to a steady rise in unemployment and skyrocketing inequality.

But health may be the most fundamental inequality; after all, public health lies at the foundation of economic prosperity and social justice. And while Lebanon’s health system has improved in terms of access and quality in recent years, existing governance, financing, and delivery arrangements leave many behind.

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