A demand that the Health Ministry establish an independent body to promote disease prevention and provide services along with the health funds was issued on Tuesday by Jerusalem's Taub Center for Social Policy in Israel. The center based its recommendations on a policy report written by Prof. Hava Palti, a veteran public health expert, who called for the abolishment of the fee paid by pregnant women for monitoring and by parents at family health (tipat halav) centers for vaccinating and examining their babies and toddlers. A fee that discourages parents from bringing in their children should not be charged for a service that promotes public health, Palti said. The report notes that in recent years, the ministry's funding of public health services has declined annually by 13 percent. In 2005, the ministry allocated only NIS 590 m. - or 2.6% of its whole budget - for public health and disease prevention. This is the lowest rate in the Western world, Palti wrote. As a result, dozens of tipat halav centers were forced to close. Students' health services and monitoring in schools have also declined because only 400 school nurses remain out of 2,000 who were employed in the 1990s. As a result, the Taub Center, which is funded by the Joint Distribution Committee and other bodies, called for the establishment of a public health authority that will offer and promote services to children, pregnant women and others. The authority must have the budget it needs as well as the power to carry out its tasks. As for the tipat halav fee, Palti demanded that it be cancelled immediately, as no other country in the world charges for infant care and other services provided by the centers. She added that the Treasury wants to transfer the Health Ministry's responsibility for its 600 tipat halav centers to the health funds.