Israel has a national health care plan that may offer some lessons to American policy-makers working to devise a U.S. plan. Israel's greatest contributions, however, are likely to be made on a smaller scale, in specific areas of health care delivery and medical research.
One of the most important and innovative aspects of the Israeli health care system is the comprehensive service provided to mothers through a network of mother-and-child health centers. The 900 clinics, run by local or national authorities, offer free health care to mothers throughout pregnancy and after delivery. From birth to early childhood, children receive care in these facilities. Services include guidance on nutrition, family planning, child development and care of the elderly. The clinics insure that expectant mothers and children receive regular checkups and scheduled immunizations.
Every woman in Israel is allowed six months maternity leave, which is subsidized by the social security system. She is also guaranteed that her job will be waiting when she returns.
A Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) was signed in 1985 between the Department of Health and Human Services and the Israeli Ministry of Health. This MOU provides for the exchange of information and scientific, administrative and academic personnel; education and training of manpower; conferences and symposia and mutually agreed upon collaborative projects addressing common problems concerning:
Binational symposia are held every two years, alternately in Israel and in the United States. The topics covered to date were: regionalization of health care; biomedical research; health technology assessment; aging/substance abuse and the contemporary role of primary health care and public health.
There is also a vibrant exchange of information on a variety of subjects including pharmaceuticals, food safety, substance abuse and health promotion.
The National Institutes of Health (NIH) award grants and contracts to Americans working with Israelis or directly to Israelis. In fact, in 1991, Israel was the fifth highest foreign recipient of NIH grants and contracts. Research grants are nonpolitical and are awarded solely based on academic merit. Currently, at least 14 grants to Israeli researchers are active. The areas under investigation include cloning of genes involved in Downs Syndrome, a national marrow donor program and infections associated with AIDS.
Israelis are also among the most frequent participants in NIH's visitors program. Each year, up to six International Research Fellowship Awards are given to young Israeli scientists for postdoctoral biomedical and life sciences research.
In 1992, Israel also reached an agreement to obtain access to NIH's computerized medical database.
More than 40 percent of the 1990-91 awards made by the Binational Science Foundation (BSF) were in health and life sciences. Active grants related to life sciences include:
Israel is a leader also in the development of medical technology and engages in wide range of joint projects, such as one between the Technion and IBM to improve medical diagnosis through computerized processing of ultrasound images, a metabolic gas analyzer and a fetal distress monitor.