The rising population and structural weaknesses of the public healthcare system challenge Egypt’s health care situation. The public health service is both underfunded and understaffed. Egypt lacks well-trained nursing staff and doctors, in addition to the poor state of public hospitals. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), in 2012 Egypt had 0.5 hospital beds per 1000 people. Comparably, Turkey offers 2,7 hospital beds per 1000 people, as 2014 OECD data states.
Although the child and maternal mortality could get reduced over recent years, there remain significant regional disparities. According to the “2014 Egypt Demographic and Health Survey”, the under-five mortality of children is lower among urban children (23 deaths per 1,000) than rural children (34 deaths per 1,000). Addressing these disparities requires a continued focus on primary health and preventive medicine.
Access to medical services is a basic human right
Medical care is a part of the comprehensive plan for community development. Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 3 states: “Ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages”. Deliberately not in urban Cairo, the SEKEM Medical Center takes a leading role in coordinating and promoting health services in the region. SEKEMs Medical Center was opened at the SEKEM Farm near Belbeis in 1996 and, since then, is providing both services to SEKEM employees, students and surrounding 40.000 community members.
“The women come with many questions to us and want to discuss problems, such as female genital mutilation, personal hygiene and late maternity”, Dr. Samira Al Mallah
Public-health physicians in the center’s different clinics and social workers provide preventive and curative treatment services on demand. They raise the people’s awareness about sanitation and hygiene; provide them with information on health, nutrition, disease prevention, family planning, reproductive health and environmental issues. “Regularly, we also host medical advisory sessions for female employees from NatureTex and ISIS. During the sessions we give them information about the anatomic basics of the female sexual organs, pregnancy and maternity, for instance,” reveals Dr. Samira Al Mallah from SEKEMs Medical Center. “The women come with many questions to us and want to discuss problems, such as female genital mutilation, personal hygiene and late maternity”, she continues. Vice versa, male doctors offer gender sessions to male SEKEM employees.
Furthermore Hepatitis B and C continue to be a public health problem in Egypt, data suggesting particularly hepatitis C may be increasing (WHO 2012). The highly infectious blood-borne virus Hepatitis C results in an estimated 40,000 deaths each year in Egypt. Egypt has still one the highest prevalence of Hepatitis C in the world due to the use of inadequately sterilized needles during mass public health campaigns against schistosomiasis during the 1960s through the early 1980s.
SEKEM Medical Center: More than 1800 patients Hepatitis C free
To combat this, the Public Health Insurance Organization selected SEKEM Medical Center to be the focal point of the area for treating Hepatitis C patients coming from the surrounding villages. Since March 2016, the Center could completely cure more than 1800 patients of the disease. The patients come back every three months to undergo their check-ups. ”The treated patients additionally receive Hepatitis B vaccines as part of their prophylactic and immunological procedures”, explains Sabry Mokhtar, administrative manager at SEKEM Medical Center. In the framework of contributing to the Egyptian governmental campaign “Egypt free of Hepatitis C by 2020”, SEKEM is confident that the number of patients can inevitably be diminished.
What else to ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages?
While the proportion of deaths attributable to communicable diseases has generally declined, non-communicable diseases such as cancers, diabetes, obesity and chronic respiratory diseases have become more widespread in Egypt in recent years. They are now the leading cause of death in Egypt (82%), according to the WHO. To be always up-to-date in terms of the latest health developments, the SEKEM Medical Center arranges regular training programs. Close collaboration with the health authorities, health insurance companies, and government health care centers ensures services for the people in the region. Regular coaching ensures that all doctors, social workers and medical staff update their skills to stay abreast of developments in modern medicine.
That is also why the Heliopolis University for Sustainable Development, which was opened under SEKEMs patronage in 2012, engages in research. The university registers about 800 enrolled pharmacy students; the first students will graduate this year. The university also develops relevant herbal medication in the laboratories to foster its holistic health philosophy that not every disease needs to be treated with chemical medicine.
SEKEM takes the stand that better health is central to human happiness and well-being.
Health incorporated in the core business
SEKEM takes the stand that better health is central to human happiness and well-being. Hence, it contributes to economic progress, as healthy populations live longer and are more productive. To ensure healthy lives, SEKEMs companies develop healthy foodstuff, phyto-pharmaceuticals as well as relevant health products, early diagnosis kits for relevant illnesses as well as bio-diagnostic kits. For SEKEM it is important that its economical activities do not harm health but foster healthy lifestyles. SEKEMs Biodynamic agriculture does not create any pollution and herewith does not create any health problems. Moreover, to stay healthy, all SEKEMs employees benefit from a medical state insurance or a private medical insurance to which SEKEM contributes, if this is desired.
40 years ago, SEKEM was founded with the idea of sustainable development and building of a prosperous future for Egypt and the world. For SEKEM, sustainable development is not a fancy topic to talk about, but the core business. SEKEM commits itself to the “2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development” and works to fulfill all 17 SDGs. SEKEM measures its holistic concept with the Sustainability Flower. The flower represents a management, assessment and communication tool symbolizing the concept of sustainable development in its four dimensions: economic life, societal life, cultural life and ecology.