Disease Prevention in Islamic Countries

A network of international experts is setting up a Supercourse to meet the challenge.

Nov 1, 2008
Ali Ardalan, Kawkab Shishani, Abdel Belal, Kuntoro, Ghada Ahmad for the OIC NCD
<figcaption> Credit: © Marty Heitner</figcaption>
Credit: © Marty Heitner

Abu-Bakr Mohammaed ibn-Zakaria Al-Razi (841-926 AD) described health as "the art concerned in preserving healthy bodies, combating disease and restoring health to the sick." This Persian quote is one of the earliest recognitions of the importance of prevention.

In the 57 Islamic Nations of the Organization of the Islamic Convention Countries (OIC) there has been a health transition. Almost all countries have seen a 20 year increase in life expectancy since WWII which is almost entirely due to prevention. Most of prevention is education.

As people in OIC countries live longer, there has been a rapid rise of non-communicable diseases (NCDs). We propose to marry NCD prevention education with information technology in Islamic countries to systematically prevent NCDs. To do this, we will establish an OIC Supercourse.

The parent Supercourse (www.pitt.edu/~super1/lecture/lec32301/index.htm) is a global web-based network of experts in prevention of disease. It includes the Supercourse library, which is like the Library of Alexandria but instead of books, PowerPoint slides and lectures on prevention are shared. This helps experienced educators to teach new topics. It helps faculty in developing countries to have access to up-to-date, easily usable content for teaching.

The parent Supercourse has 56,000 faculty from 172 countries. This includes 6,500 faculty from India, 630 from Pakistan, 25,000 from the United States, and 1,338 from 48 Arab/Muslim countries. The resource comprises 3,455 lectures, including 14 from Nobel Prize winners. It has been used to educate over one million students. There are 42 mirrored servers in, among other countries, Egypt, Sudan, Mongolia, China and Russia.

Within the parent Supercourse, we have built a Supercourse specific for Islamic countries with the goal to investigate prevention in the context of the culture of Muslim countries (see www.pitt.edu/~super1/ighn2.htm and www.bibalex.org/supercourse). So far 41 lectures have been translated into Arabic.

We are developing an NCD expert network across the 57 member OIC states. Those in the network will be experts from academia and Ministries of Health who are interested in the prevention of noncommunicable diseases and disaster mitigation. Already there are over 1,300 faculty.

The second role of the network will be to assist in the translation of the lectures into English, Arabic, French, and Farsi. The lectures will be translated by students in each country, and reviewed by faculty. The third role will be to provide new lectures and to recruit lectures within their countries that can be used nationally, within the OIC and globally. The sharing of knowledge across boundaries is very important to build solidarity across borders for GLOCAL prevention (global to local prevention). The fourth role will be to serve as teachers for short courses on NCD prevention. The final role of the network will be in the dissemination of materials across member nations.

The establishment of an OIC Supercourse will promote the sharing of the best international prevention information. This will promote common understandings in health as well as public health solidarity so that both national and OIC-wide health problems can be attacked together, and OIC countries will be able to make a more effective contribution to the global community on these important issues.

This article is available as a Supercourse lecture at www.pitt.edu/~super1/lecture/lec32301/index.htm. It has been translated into Arabic and Farsi on the site.