Moving Forward or Backward?

By: Sonny Patel, MPH candidate and Luke Manley, MPH candidate

Amid the ongoing, dramatic, and critical problems in the Middle East, the issue of health care in the region is often largely ignored. However, we are seeking to shine a spotlight on this vital, yet woefully underrepresented and poorly understood area.

We recently spent a month in Istanbul intensely researching the Turkish health care system and focusing on the current transition from mainly public, community-based, socialized medicine to a more private scheme, reminiscent of the United States. Throughout our stay, we conducted 12 official interviews with health practitioners across a range of occupations (e.g. health officers, medical directors, pharmacists, clinical psychologists, and herbal practitioners) that were working in each of the major sectors of health care (private, public, or both). Understandably, the experience has left us with an even greater respect for the immense complexity of balancing all the different aspects of health care development and provision, especially in such an intricate society.

The primary struggle for Turkey is to simultaneously “Westernize” without losing the old Ottoman values of community and cooperation that directly relate to the sharing of health risks. This illustrates the unique complexities that exist in a society with such an ancient culture, central geographic location, and distinctively secular political structure. Preliminary data shows that this current transition marks an intense period of change for the government, business, and the people of Turkey, with strong, informed, and conflicting opinions dominating all sides of the evolution of the health care system.

We look forward to continuing our research in Istanbul and the other major regions of Turkey in the near future, as it has become apparent that modern Turkey provides limitless opportunity. Nowhere is this truer than in the realm of health care. Currently we are in the process of analyzing and organizing our data into a number of different presentations, with the intent of publishing a paper on the subject later in the year.

For more information, please contact the authors: Sonny Patel ( and Luke Manley (

First Picture is of Luke (Left) and Sonny (Right) outside an Istanbul Hospital. Second Picture is of Sonny (Left) and Luke (Right) inside an Istanbul Hospital.