Health issues important to public but ignored by parties, survey shows

Health is the most important election issue after security, economics and education, according to a University of Haifa survey on the eve of the Knesset election, but most of the public believes the government and the Knesset did very little in this field since the last election. Seventy-one percent of the public said national security was the most important issue in deciding for whom to vote. In rating the next most important issues, 65% said the economy, 58% education, and 44% said health issues. Prof. Manfred Green, Prof. Perla Werner, Dr. Yitzhak Zaides and Dr. Meir Pugatch conducted the survey among a representative sample of 800 Israeli adults and released the results on Monday. Despite the importance of health issues, most of the public said they were not satisfied with what the Knesset, Health Ministry and other government offices invested in the field, and three-quarters said that members in the current Knesset gave these issues only low or moderate priority. Among the four largest parties, the Labor Party was regarded as giving health matters high priority; 47% of party supporters said the health system was among the top three most important subjects for them. Forty-one percent of Yisrael Beitenu voters, 39% of Likud voters and 26% of Kadima voters said health was among the top three top issues. Even though health issues were widely regarded as important in deciding how to vote, 67% of those queries said they didn't see any differences among the various parties and 70% among the various candidates for the premiership regarding health service policies. Among the third of those questioned who said they did see differences on health issues among the parties, 8% said Labor was most suited to run the Health Ministry, compared to 7% for the Likud and 4% for Kadima. For more than two years, Ya'acov Ben-Yizri of the Gil (Pensioners‚) Party has headed the Health Ministry. "In most Western countries, health services and policies are at the top of the priority list for voters," said Green, the head (on leave) of the Health Ministry's Centers for Disease Control, "but unfortunately, in Israel they have almost disappeared from the public agenda. This should worry the public. I haven't see any of the major parties discuss health issues during the current campaign, even though there is a significant number of health matters that should disturb every citizen."