The influence of economic, political and socio-cultural factors on the development of health services in Saudi Arabia
In this thesis I examine the influence of economic, political and socio-cultural factors on the development of health services in Saudi Arabia. There are four main parts and a conclusion. In Part One I review the situation in developing countries. Many commentators have argued that economic factors, and to some extent political factors, are the main determinant of health services development in developing countries. Socio-cultural factors are generally neglected in these analysis. In this thesis I redress the balance by examining the relationship between economic, political and socio-cultural factors in the development of the Saudi health care system.In Part Two I analyse the Saudi resource situation. Although the health service is not considered a priority in the overall Saudi development strategy, the government provides generous financial resources for its development. However, non-financial resources remain a problem. Relatively abundant financial resources can provide a short-term solution to some of the resource shortages, such as the lack of skilled manpower, but the use of expatriate health personnel may have unanticipated negative consequences.In Part Three I examine the resource allocation process. The Saudi political system contains a mixture of modern and traditional elements, and the decision making process is affected by traditional social relationships. The King and public bureaucrats play a key role in the allocation process, but local leaders and Governors have wide scope to influence their decisions. While health provision is not a political issue in the country, it contributes to the social cohesion between the government and the general public.In Part Four I examine the influence of socio-cultural factors on the development of the Saudi health service. In the Saudi society socio-cultural factors affect the behaviour of individuals in their interaction with the health system. For example, the annual pilgrimage to Mecca by millions of moslems from all over the world presents a formidable challenge to health authorities. Health authorities accept the importance of socio-cultural factors, and respond by compromising policies. In the conclusion I consider the policy and theoretical implications of the study. In particular I examine the need for the formal recongnition and incorporation of socio-cultural factors into health policy decision making. This would lead to the generation of alternative policy options which complement other options based on economic and political considerations. The socio-cultural oriented approach can contribute significantly to the improvement of the long term prospect for health services in Saudi Arabia, and developing countries generally.