Intended for healthcare professionals


Health in the Middle East

BMJ 2006; 333 doi: (Published 19 October 2006) Cite this as: BMJ 2006;333:815
  1. Wasim Maziak (, associate professor of University of Memphis and director of Syrian Center for Tobacco Studies
  1. Syrian Center for Tobacco Studies and University of Memphis, Memphis, TN 38152, USA

    No one's priority, everyone's problem

    At the height of the Arab-Islamic civilisation between the 8th and 12th century, scholars laid the foundation for modern medicine based on observation and reasoning.1 Avicenna's Al Qanun of Medicine was the standard medical text in Europe for several centuries. In the bimaristans (hospitals), still standing in the heart of Aleppo (figure), the mentally ill were treated with water, music, light, and the scent of flowers—testament to enlightened attitudes. Today, the geopolitical remnants of that empire, a legacy of past conflicts and externally imposed boundaries, includes some of the poorest and richest countries in the world, whose basic health indicators generally parallel their economic status.

    Embedded Image

    Bimaristan hospital for the mentally ill in Aleppo, Syria


    Many of these countries, rich and poor, spend far more on defence than on health and research and development combined and are lagging behind on major indices of development.23 Authoritarian regimes, economic incentives, and conflicts have resulted in the migration of health professionals: an estimated 15 000 Arab doctors left their countries …

    View Full Text