Harvey Skinner (University of Toronto, Canada) and colleagues outline the work of the Canada International Scientific Exchange Program (CISEPO), which has successfully fostered collaborative work in the region involving Israeli, Jordanian and Palestinian health professionals since 1995.
In its first initiative CISEPO identified hearing loss as an important health issue for the region and helped broker the creation of the Middle East Association for Managing Hearing Loss (MEHA) the first joint Arab and Israeli professional association.
The cross-border project led to Palestinian and Israeli basic science research programmes between Bethlehem University and Tel Aviv University in the genetics of hearing loss, and generated joint-publications. From this followed a project to screen and habilitate 17,000 Israeli, Jordanian and Palestinian newborns for hearing loss.
CISEPO has now expanded from its initial focus on congenital hearing loss to include activities on health of mothers and children, promotion of health in young people, nutrition and infectious diseases. Overlapping components of these projects include co-authorship of presentation and papers, joint research meetings, international exchanges and training, visiting scholars, fellowships, continuing education, and electronic distance learning.
Professor Skinner comments: "Concern is mounting about our ability to address global health issues in the 21st century in a climate of national, ethnocultural, and religious conflicts. The Middle East, in particular, presents immense challenges for improving regional disparities in health and fostering peaceful coexistence.
"Our work has shown that it is possible to bring Arabs and Israelis together to achieve common goals under very difficult circumstanc
Contact: Joe Santangelo