Jews Live an Average of Three Years Longer Than Arab Citizens

That is one of the many gaps in health care that the outgoing minister had plans to close.

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Health Minister Yael German, pictured in Tel Aviv on December 11, 2013.Credit: Moti Milrod

Arabs’ life expectancy is three years less than that of Jews, and some 1.4 million Israelis forgo dental care due to cost, according to an annual survey on inequality in health care.

The survey is being presented today during the annual conference on the subject. Health Minister Yael German was slated to announce that 100 million shekels were being allocated to close these gaps, but following the dissolution of the coalition this week, German will be delivering her resignation speech instead – and the money is on hold until a new government is formed and the new health minister decides whether to allocate it.

The study, published by the Health Ministry’s strategic and economic planning administration, found gaps in both the availability of health care and the results between different population groups.

“The Health Ministry is committed professionally and ethically to limit health gaps, and is committed to continue allocating resources and manpower to the health system” to do so, the ministry stated.

According to a Central Bureau of Statistics survey, some 13% of people in need of medical care – 360,000 people – went without it due to economic considerations. Some 11% of Israelis chose not to buy prescription medications due to cost. Both of these services are available at subsidized rates through the public health system. The proportion of people forgoing health care or medicine was higher among the unemployed and the bottom percentiles of wage earners.

Some 42% of Israelis – 1.4 million people – went without dental care due to its cost. Dental care is included in national health care only for children up to age 14. Some 52% of Jewish children make periodic visits to a dentist, while only 23% of Arab children do. Even once adjusting for differences in income and education, Arabs are still less likely to see a dentist.

The study also reviews life expectancies. Israel has one of the highest life expectancies in the world, but there are differences between communities and geographic regions. While the average Jewish man can expect to live 81 years and the average Jewish woman can expect to live 84.3 years, Arab men can expect to live only until 78 and Arab woman, 80.9. However, Arab men’s life expectancy increased significantly since 2012, from 76.9 years.

The survey also looks at differences in infant mortality. As of 2013, Israel had an infant mortality rate of 3.4 babies per 1,000 live births, but the figure is 2.5 for Jewish babies and 6.3 for Arab babies. Babies born in the periphery also face a higher mortality rate than those in the center of the country.

Some 33% of people living in upper-middle class communities have to wait more than a month to see specialists in uncommon specialties, compared to 42% of those living in middle-class and lower-class communities and 56% of people living in the periphery.

The report also found differences in terms of healthy behavior. One-quarter of Arabs reported smoking more than one pack of cigarettes a day, versus 20% of Jews. Some 70% of Arabs reported doing no physical activity in their spare time, versus 48% of Jews. Also, only 16% of Arabs reported getting flu vaccines, compared to 24.6% of Jews.

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