The Institute of Community and Public Health emerged out of the Palestinian social action movement of the late 1970’s. It developed from a formal university unit to a department, and finally an independent institute within Birzeit University in 1998. Its mission and goals have been primarily defined by the extra-ordinary conditions of Israeli military occupation of the West Bank and Gaza Strip.
ICPH aims to contribute to the protection and improvement of the health of the Palestinian population, academically through research and its Master’s of Public Health program, and technically by assisting in capacity building of public health providers and planners through workshops, joint research projects and research dissemination. ICPH theoretical foundations are based on the notion that health is socially constructed, and on understanding health and disease in ecological as well as historical context.
ICPH defines health as a basic human right, and focuses on justice in health. It promotes a multidisciplinary and inter-sectoral approach to address structural factors (economic, social, cultural, environmental and political) that influence health and wellbeing. Active cooperation with community and society ensures that the link between theory and practice is maintained.
ICPH upholds primary health care as a strategy for health promotion and equitable health services development. Primary health care, a population-directed approach to health, is not merely a clinic in a remote area, but rather a strategy, and a system of health care provision that includes teamwork among the various categories of providers, effective linkages in the community, and referral mechanisms among the different levels of health care.
ICPH combines immediate health crisis survival needs with longer term development objectives. Its 10-year strategic programs run in cycles, beginning with observation, research and needs assessments providing evidence, followed by action. Advocacy, teaching and training, field interventions, monitoring, and evaluation then guide new programming and inform policy. The first ten-year cycle was centered on participation in the development of the Palestinian Primary Health Care model. The following cycle focused on the development of Community Based Rehabilitation in Palestine. And currently, the Institute’s focus is on chronic disease management, maternal health, as well as psychosocial and mental health.
Professor Rita Giacaman (PharmD) is founder and Research and Program Coordinator at the Institute of Community and Public Health (ICPH), Birzeit University (BZU). She has been on the faculty at ICPH for 36 years. During the 1980s, she participated as a researcher and practitioner in the Palestinian Social Action Movement, which led to the development of the Palestinian primary health care model. During the 1990s, she also participated in building the Palestinian community-based disability rehabilitation network. Since 2000, Professor Giacaman has sought to understand the impact of chronic war-like conditions and excessive exposure to violence on the health and well-being of Palestinians, and ways in which interventions could generate the needed active and positive resilience and resistance to ongoing war-like conditions, especially among youth. She has published extensively in scholarly journals as well as in edited volumes., She recently co-edited Public Health in the Arab World: Towards a Multidisciplinary Perspective, with colleagues from the Faculty of Health Sciences at the American University of Beirut, published in 2012 by Cambridge University Press, and is a member of the Lancet Commission on Global Governance for Health.
Suzan Mitwalli (MPH) is research assistant in the mental health unit of ICPH and the coordinator of the MPH program. She has extensive experience in both quantitative and qualitative research methods. She has been responsible for the design and co-facilitation of interactive training workshops as part of the ‘Youth as Strategy’ project, which aims at promoting youth agency in Palestinian villages through groups for male and female teenagers, facilitated by the Community Based Rehabilitation program.
Yoke Rabaia (MPH) is an independent researcher supporting the Institute of Community and Public Health of Birzeit University in various research projects, especially in the use of qualitative methods. She is interested in psychosocial health and well being of populations in situations of prolonged conflict, which is also the subject of her doctorate work. She has been actively involved in the above-mentioned ‘Youth as Strategy’ research-to-action project.