WHO Survey Finds Better Health Among Jews Than Arab Israelis

79 percent of Arab men in survery said their health was good or very good, as opposed to 74 percent of Jewish men.

Fifteen percent of Israeli women are overweight, and 17 percent suffer from high blood pressure, as opposed to 14 percent of men. Eighteen percent of women have high cholesterol, as opposed to 15 percent of men. Forty-one percent of Israeli women see medical specialists, while only 31 percent of men do so. There are also large gaps between Jews and Arabs in receiving essential medical services. These and other findings are included in the most comprehensive health survey ever carried out in Israel, which released Sunday by the Health Ministry.

The survey encompassed a representative sample of approximately 10,000 adults, both Jews and Arabs, who were interviewed by phone in 2003 and 2004. The survey is part of a United Nations World Health Organization (WHO) effort to present a general picture of the health of Israelis and make international comparisons.

The survey, which focused mainly on lifestyle, and health issues like smoking and obesity, shows gaps in mammography testing by Jewish and Arab women: 90 percent of women with a malignant breast tumor discovered at an early stage can survive the disease. However only 23 percent of Arab women reported undergoing mammography, as opposed to 48 percent of Jewish women. Early detection of cervical cancer also increases survival rates; the survey showed 59 percent of Jewish women undergo testing for the disease as opposed to only 13 percent of Arab women.

These statistics have a socioeconomic explanation: Most of the Arab women live in poor communities in outlying areas, where access to specialists and testing centers is expensive and therefore relatively infrequent. For example, the Israel Cancer Society has only one mobile mammography vehicle for all peripheral communities.

The survey also revealed that 15 percent of Arab women do regular athletic activities, as opposed to about one-third of the Jewish women. Among Jewish men, 36 percent reported regular athletic activities, as opposed to 23 percent of Arab men.

Perhaps due to reduced athletic activity, obesity according to WHO standards was higher among Arabs, with one-fifth of Arab women reporting their body weight was 25 percent over the average, as opposed to 15 percent of Jewish women.

A lack of access to specialists means more visits to family doctors in the Arab sector than in the Jewish sector: The survey showed that 1.6 times more Arab men see a family doctor than Jewish men, and 1.4 times more Arab women do so than Jewish women.

With regard to health awareness, 42 percent of Jewish women surveyed reported changes in their nutritional habits in the three years before the survey, while only one-third of the Arab women so reported.

Among half of Arab men over 21 smoke, as opposed to 30 percent of Jewish men.

However, smoking is relatively rare among Arab women, with only 7 percent reporting they smoke, as opposed to 20 percent of adult Jewish women.

Despite the difference in healthly lifestyle and the possibility to see specialists, 79 percent of Arab men surveyed said their health was good or very good, as opposed to 74 percent of Jewish men. Three-quarters of Arab women are satisfied with their health, as opposed to two-thirds of Jewish women.