Toward Enhancing Lebanon’s Health Emergency Preparedness

Students to benefit from capacity building and research opportunities through new partnership with UK-Med.

By Raissa Batakji

The signing of the Memorandum of Understanding took place in a virtual session with UK-Med.

The Alice Ramez Chagoury School of Nursing (ARCSON) signed an agreement today with UK-Med to provide training on health emergency preparedness for medical and paramedical students, and to foster research in this area.

For more than 25 years, the Manchester-based organization has provided emergency response and capacity building to communities in the aftermath of natural or man-made disasters, disease outbreaks and post conflict situations.

UK-Med has been active in Lebanon since the Beirut Port explosion and is now partnering with LAU to implement its two-pronged program of training and research on healthcare in humanitarian crises, a rare feature of medical and nursing education in Lebanon.

LAU President Michel E. Mawad drew from the painful experience of the August 4 explosion to highlight that “it is imperative for our institution to seek the training and expertise necessary to handle such a disaster and to offer best services possible to save lives and improve the quality of life for the survivors.”

The ongoing, multilayered economic, social and health crises in Lebanon suggest that the population is “at higher risk for emergencies and disasters,” according to a UK-Med report, which also adds that research into best practices and emergency programs at the tertiary education level is scarce.

“There is no better partner for LAU in pursuing such endeavors than UK-Med, that has a stellar track record and the know-how to provide us with the help and training necessary to be better prepared for large-scale emergencies,” said Dr. Mawad.

UK-Med CEO David Wighwick underscored the importance of working closely with academic institutions for realizing their objectives. “Developing high quality training, building the evidence base essential for effective humanitarian response, and actively delivering for the most vulnerable is at the core of what we do, and we are very pleased to be working alongside, and joining forces with a world-renowned academic body such as LAU,” he said.

Interim Dean of ARCSON Costantine Daher hailed the new partnership as “a fruitful, strategic and sustainable collaboration focused on long-term interests rather than short-term benefits.”

Through the first dimension, UK-Med will provide training in Risk Communications and Community Engagement (RCCE), which is “considered a vital part of any emergency preparedness and response plan,” according to the organization. The seven-module training will be offered as part of LAU’s Interprofessional Education Program (IPE) to all health students who will go on to contribute to health promotion before, during and after the onset of any health emergency.

Dr. Daher explained that LAU will offer its expertise to establish – together with the organization – a research network that would attract funds from international agencies and donors.

Born of the UK’s National Health Services (NHS), UK-Med is one of the most deployed Emergency Medical Teams (EMTs) globally. In the aftermath of the Beirut Port explosion, it has supported six governmental hospitals, said UK-Med Health Director Ram Vadi. 

“Working with academic partners to promote evidence-based practice and to continually improve teaching and responses to achieve the best patient outcomes is one of our key priorities,” he noted, adding that his organization is proud of the partnership with LAU, which will pass on this learning “to the next generations of LAU graduates.”

Echoing this thought, Health Referent for RCCE at UK-Med Diana Maddah hoped that the partnership will lead to better health outcomes by fostering the next generation’s skills and knowledge to promote public health despite the fragile context in Lebanon. “Health equity is a right and not a privilege,” she added.