Respected British medical journal The Lancet has launched its special Israel edition, warning that health inequalities between Arabs and Jews must be addressed.

Ahead of the special edition’s launch in Tel Aviv, Lancet editor Dr Richard Horton apologised for the journal’s 2014 decision to publish a letter highly critical of Israeli action in Gaza, acknowledging that it “divided medical opinion worldwide” and saying: “We have learned lessons from this unfortunate episode.”

This week, he said: “Our collaboration seeks to undo the harm and tarnish of this episode by transforming those experiences into constructive practice.

“We believe that The Lancet’s Israel Series could serve as a springboard for increasing not only health and health equity within Israel and between Israel and its closest neighbours, but also offer a platform for greater engagement of Israeli physicians and medical scientists in issues of national and global health.”

Horton said the special issue on Israel, which notes “strong progress in the health of the Israeli population,” was conceived in the aftermath of the 2014 conflict in Gaza. He added that this had led to the journal’s “future commitment to work intensively with both our Palestinian and Israeli colleagues to provide the foundations in one aspect of society for peace and justice”.

The issue highlights that Israel’s health system, which is mostly free at the point of use, has delivered improvements in life expectancy and a reduced mortality rate, but that “challenges remain – for example, in addressing the health needs of an ageing society and for women and children’s health”.

It adds that “important health inequalities between Israeli Arabs and Israeli Jews and across different regions of the country also persist and must be addressed”.

The Series’ was led by Ben-Gurion University of the Negev’s Professor A. Mark Clarfield, who acted as guest editor. He worked on it together with Professor Orly Manor from Israel National Institute for Health Policy and Services Research, and Rambam Health Care Campus’s Professor Zaher Azzam.

Clarfield, who is the director of the Medical School for International Health at Ben-Gurion University in Beer Sheva, said: “The slow but increasing privatisation of services and stagnating national expenditure on health must be addressed so as to ensure we are able to continue providing good quality health care for citizens.

He added that “residual troublesome disparities in health outcomes among population and regional groups reflect inequalities in the socioeconomic underpinnings of health and well-being”.