Academia’s contributions go far beyond education and generating knowledge, as proved once again by the American University of Beirut (AUB) – Faculty of Health Science (FHS) Graduate Public Health Program.
Recognizing its role in advancing evidence-based research and good health governance in Lebanon, AUB on behalf of FHS, signed a tripartite agreement with the Ministry of Public Health (MoPH) in Lebanon, and the World Health Organization (WHO) to establish the Policy Support Observatory (PSO), a platform that will be physically hosted at the Ministry of Public Health and technically operated by FHS.
The agreement was announced on during a ceremony held at the Ministry of Public Health headquarters in Beirut. This pioneering initiative, a first in Lebanon and the region, serves as a stepping stone towards bridging the gap between academic institutions, international health organizations, and the Lebanese public sector, allowing for the MoPH to strengthen and institutionalize the use of research evidence, data, and tacit knowledge. Through this knowledge, the PSO will enable decision makers, and particularly officials and experts in the MoPH, to design special programs and draw informed policies and strategies that respond to the basic health needs and improve healthcare in Lebanon. The distinctive participation in the event of the director-general of WHO, Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebereysus, reflects the importance of the initiative, not only for Lebanon but also for the global public health community. Indeed, this partnership marks yet another innovative model that can be successfully replicated in other countries in the region — and beyond — to promote evidence-informed decision-making in health.
The event was attended by high-profile participants including Minister of Public Health Ghassan Hasbani, AUB president Dr. Fadlo Khuri, as well as representatives from various ministries, public institutions, and professional associations, in addition to experts and researchers from all over Lebanon.
In his opening speech, Dr. Walid Ammar, director general of the MoPH, stated that one of the foundations of successful policies is “the adoption of scientific evidence and advanced information systems, in addition to the approach of the “cooperation governance” in the health sector, under the umbrella of the Ministry, institutionalizing cooperation among all stakeholders.” He added: “The project we are launching today is not a new one, it is the consolidation of existing practices and the promotion of previous achievements.”
WHO director-general Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus congratulated all the collaborators on this new step and stressed that WHO is committed to working with the MOPH and AUB to make this initiative a success. Dr. Tedros added that “this observatory requires prudent management and cooperation with all concerned parties within the health sector and takes into account national health policies.”
Speaking on the role of AUB in supporting this observatory, President Fadlo Khuri stated that, “it is not surprising that the voices are calling for bridging the gap between scientific research and the process of policy-making and decision-making, especially the gap between the academic sector and the government.” Highlighting the new emerging roles of academic institutions, Dr. Khuri considered that “the university mission is gradually moving beyond its traditional roles associated with education, services and research to adopt a ‘fourth mission’ related to its ability to engage in partnerships with the government and society to achieve a sustainable societal impact.”
Also praising this cooperation scheme, Minister Hasbani considered the Ministry’s special partnership with AUB and WHO as “the foundations of the cooperation mechanisms that made the health sector in Lebanon the first in the Arab region and 32nd internationally.” “This Observatory will facilitate communications with all parties and partners, especially citizens, to ensure the sustainability of cooperation, effectiveness and scientific policy, away from political influence or any other subjective effects,” added Mr. Hasbani.