ICAP directors Drs. Wafaa El-Sadr and Miriam Rabkin, and Mailman School of Public Health colleague Professor Lynn Freedman, gave a panel discussion at Istanbul University on displaced populations, gender rights, and public health.

The panel, “Prioritizing Women: Adapting Refugee Health Services for 21st Century Health Challenges,” was moderated by Dr. El-Sadr, who reflected on the historic numbers of refugees and displaced people worldwide, particularly in the Middle East and Turkey, where over two million Syrian refugees currently live. More than 77 percent of that refugee population is women and children.

Drs. Zeynep Kıvılcım and Nurcan Özgür Baklacıoglu of Istanbul University presented the results of a qualitative study of Syrian women in Istanbul, highlighting gaps in service and missed opportunities for effectively responding to the health needs of women and children.

Dr. Rabkin, who specializes in health systems strategies, discussed the often episodic health care refugees receive, which places them at considerable risk for chronic health issues. Instead, they need consistent health services to combat the rise of the non-communicable diseases in prevalent in the region.

“The actual operation of the health systems is where words and ideas translate into tangible steps to respect, protect and fulfill human rights,” explained Professor Freedman, echoing the sentiments of the panel.

In order to safeguard the human right to health, there must be discourse—between patient and health provider, between refugee and host community.

This panel is part of ICAP and MSPH’s broader project, supported by the President’s Global Innovation Fund, on Confronting Non-Communicable Diseases in the Middle East and Turkey.

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