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World Report shows scant research conducted in Middle East region
July / August 2019 | Volume 18, Number 4
There is a scarcity of globally funded research being conducted in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region,
according to a data analysis [PDF] conducted using
World Report information. The online database and mapping tool provides free information on active research projects supported by leading international funders, including the NIH.
The analysis - compiled by researchers affiliated with the
Arab Community Center for Economic and Social Services (ACCESS) - said the 22-country region poses numerous challenges for scientists. “The ongoing political turmoil has eroded existing systems and prevented the development of novel programs to build an infrastructure that can enable greater research collaborations focused on health equity in the MENA region,” the authors said. The unique health risks experienced by the Arab American population - estimated to number about 2 million - are also complex and little-studied.
The MENA countries are diverse geographically and economically, the report noted. “As an example, the difference in life expectancy between countries like Yemen and Lebanon can range up to 20 years.”
While the number of MENA research projects is rising, it is still “extremely low” for a region with 22 countries, the analysis found. World Report data from 2014 show that 14 of 22 MENA countries had no research activity. Three years later, nine countries still had no grants and two countries had only one award each. While 89 institutions received research grants in 2017, up from 37 in 2015, the majority were concentrated in six countries - Egypt, Morocco, Sudan, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia and Tunisia.
In order to help bridge the research gap in Arab communities, over two decades ago ACCESS launched its Community Health and Research Center to cultivate community-based studies of Arab populations and create a platform to encourage academic collaborations on Arab health research. One outcome is the
ACCESS Arab Health Summit, a scientific forum that brings together academics, public health leaders, health professionals and other stakeholders to present and preserve research on Arab health.
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