Public health is linked to the economic strength of a country as health expenditure is positively associated with the productivity and GDP of a nation. The advances and improvement of many of the main forces driving economic growth over time span such as technological progress, education, and physical capital accumulation contribute to the improvement of health services in countries. However, with the world divided between first, second and third world countries, public health situation differs between economically strong and weak countries.
COVID-19, as a recent event, shed light on the differences in health systems within the Arab world, especially that the region includes some of the richest oil producing countries as well as poor and war-torn countries.
The below graph visually views the differences between the GDP of the Arab League Countries in the Year 2019. For example, at the top of the GDP scale , we have Qatar, a relatively geographically small GCC country and biggest producer of natural gas, has a GDP of $175 billion which is more than GDP of Libya, Lebanon, Sudan and Yemen combined.
The size of a country’s GDP determines the monetary value of its health expenditure as a percentage of GDP. Comparing the GDP tree map with Health Expenditure graph below , we can see that countries with high GDP (e.g, Qatar, UAE) shows small percentage of health expenditure while Countries with low GDP (e.g, Lebanon, Jordan) shows larger percentage of health expenditure.
In monetary terms, Lebanon has a highest total health expenditure % in the Arab World which amounts to 8.64%($51.6 B)= $4.45 billion. On the other hand, Qatar has a low health expenditure % of 2.9 but when multiplied by the country’s GDP, it amounts to 2.9%($175 B)= $5 billion.
Health Expenditure per capita shows the direct impact of GDP of a country on its health spending. As shown in the below graph, countries with high GDP have high health expenditure compared countries with low GDPs.
The above discussion pointed out the relationship between the strength of a country’s economy and its health spending. The question that remains is “How does this reflect on the health of people?”
Countries that allocate large budgets for the development of the health sector and public health perform well in the face of diseases, especially communicable diseases and pandemics such as COVID-19. The below bubble chart shows that countries with low GDP have the highest percentage of deaths by communicable diseases.
Life Expectancy and Death Rate
To further show the evidence of the impact of GDP and public health spending, we consider both indicators: Life Expectancy at Birth and Death Rate in the Arab League Countries.
- Life Expectancy at Birth: we can that people from countries with high GDPs and high health expenditure per capita. Qatar leads the way with 80 years expected age in 2020 while Yemen has an expected age of 66 years in the same year.
- Death Rate: the same pattern seen with Life Expectancy is also seen in death rates per 1000 persons. Qatar has a death rate of 1.2 compared to Yemen which has a death rate of 5.9, both in 2020.
What should be done?
The United Nations Sustainable Development Goal #3 “Ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages” points out the need for improving the public health of the world population. Health spending by governments is a very important factor in the health of their people. However, for those countries who are economically disadvantaged, improving health can be also achieved through:
- Investing in education, especially in medicine studies to make sure the health sector has the competent doctors and specialists.
- Directing international aid more towards developing health sectors in poor countries rather than urgent assistance.
- Investing in awareness: one of the most important ways to improve health in developing countries is by educating citizens to take preventive healthcare measures and avoid riskier health behaviors.
Trading is one of the most important industries in the UAE, as this is one of the richest countries. The UAE also imports many products, among which foodstuff, machinery, and equipment occupy the first positions among the most imported products in the Emirates. The availability of food is not an issue for residents of the UAE; supermarkets carry all the food they could possibly need or want. But how can a nation with the parched territory and hot weather all year round have access to a wide variety of food? Simple: The UAE is greatly reliant on imports.
-Did you know?
UAE faces a trade deficit when it comes to its food market due to limited arable land, increasing climate issues, and acute water shortage.
-What are the challenges?
With the recent COVID-19 outbreak revealing the precarious nature of imports, the UAE is now putting a strategy in place by investing in technologies to find a solution to food security.
-How can this situation improve?
They need to reduce the imports through a new food strategy which is investing in ag-tech!!
This situation can be improved through “Magic – Breathable Sand” which is one of the solutions that was developed by the Dake Group in partnership with the Rechsand Technology Group from Beijing. This type of sand is covered with a specific technology that allows air to travel through its particles and captures the water that it contains. They believe that it could be applied to desert sand to retain water and fertilizer usage by 70% and 50% respectively.
It was then tested and it worked: they were able to grow around 28 fruit trees including mango and lemon groves.
Various institutions in the United Arab Emirates provide a range of funding options to modernize agriculture.
- Dubai’s Food Tech Valley: It’s a new initiative that seeks to increase food production in the UAE and establish it as a major international destination for the sector. Based out of Dubai, ICBA works by assisting farmers and agricultural organizations in developing policies and methods that will maximize the management of local natural resources. They provide advice on the optimum crop varieties to harvest as well as soil and water quality.
- Water Scarcity: To make seawater drinkable and useful for agriculture, the United Arab Emirates mainly relies on an expensive procedure called desalination.
“Water is scarce. And as we already know, 90% of the water available in the UAE is desalinated water which is very costly and consumes energy,” explains Idland.
If half of the water was saved and used for agriculture, 30 tons of tomatoes could be produced every day. Additionally, there would be less need for the expensive and energy-intensive process of desalinating seawater.
- Vertical Farming and New Technologies: The past few years have seen a lot of attention paid to Vertical Farming. The government and the corporate sector have invested millions in the technique despite the significant expense associated with it. In order to develop vertical farming facilities in the Emirate, the Abu Dhabi Investment Office (ADIO) announced in April that it would invest $100 million in four businesses, one of which being AeroFarms.
-Visualization and Analysis.
By looking at the data from World Development Indicators, we get the results in Tableau as below: “Imports Vs. Exports”
The data line chart in the World Development Indicators shows the percentages of food exports and imports in the United Arab Emirates from 1999 to 2021 that led to a “Trade Deficit”.
-Things to note.
Why is it magical for Desert Farming and Food Security?
- Breathable roots are produced by breathing sand, and they can change the forest or other green cover.
- Given that desert soil is free of any chemical or fertilizer contamination, it encourages quicker adoption of organic farming techniques.
- A small layer of sand can save billions of gallons of water annually by reducing water use for agriculture, farming, forestry, or gardens by 80%.
- Additionally, the breathable sand can transform desert farming to increase production quantity and quality.
“Increasing self-production within the local region and reducing the reliance on imports is what we are focusing on,” says Chandra Dake.
“We [in the UAE] are only looking at a few hundred thousand hectares to be food secure, and it is not too far,” he says.
As part of the MSBA 325 Final Project done on Covid-19 and its impact on the World, we have created a time-lapse interactive Covid-19 tracker dashboard containing the following sections:
- A map to show the total confirmed active cases and new cases based on the user’s selection. Every country contains a circular mark, which size is determined by the metric (# of cases) and color is a degradation of orange (9 steps).
- A side by side line+area chart for Cases and Death. With a dynamic label to show the total number increasing with time. This was done by combining a line chart with an area chart, using only one Axis (hiding the right one) to create the below effect.
- A side by side bar chart for Cases and Death. This part shows the top 10 countries with confirmed cases (total and new) and deaths (total and new). A Grand Total has also been added to these charts. A manual sort has been performed on this chart since the total number is by date (as of the max date May 2 2020).
- As for the dashboard parameters, we have added a drop-down to select between Total Cases or New Cases. In addition to the Date control that is used to add the animation to the dashboard and will show the progress of all the dashboard sections by date starting from January 22 till May 2 by default. The user can start from a different start point to monitor the progress.
Click on the below animated image to see the dashboard in action!
Data source: Global Coronavirus (COVID-19) Data (Johns Hopkins)
Since I started working in the healthcare sector I’ve always been interested in knowing more about this industry. As such, while exploring the WDI Data I studied several healthcare indicators and it turns out – Lebanon is doing better than we thought! I was intrigued to know what’s beyond those indicators, and luckily I found a detailed dataset about Primary Health Care Centers in Lebanon on The Humanitarian Data Exchange, I was surprised to know we had this many centers.
Could this visualization be a sign of a sound healthcare system ?
Did this awareness in healthcare aid us in containing the Covid-19?
Do you think there is a better future for the healthcare system for Lebanon, or will it be worst?
Personally, I am optimistic..
So here are some things I didn’t know:
- There are 174 Operational Primary Healthcare Centers in Lebanon
- There are 25 PHC funded by UNHCR
- There are 100 PHC that provide subsidized services.
- Nabatieh has 0 operational PHCs.
- The North governorate has the highest number of operational PHC: 36
In this dashboard, I prepared – using Tableau – a map that shows the different Operational PHC locations in Lebanon filtered by UNHCR Funding. Alongside it, is a bar chart showing the percentage of operational PHC in each Governorate. Finally, at the bottom, you can find a stacked bar chart representing the number of operational PHC per governorate, highlighting those who offer subsidized services.