Tanya Attias.

Report to Health Ministry: danger of national-post trauma, immediate response required

HealthTech company Medint published a report advising the health ministry to map potential victims of the 7/10 attacks and to establish a national body to oversee trauma response and treatment.

"The Israeli population is at risk of experiencing mass post-trauma, and swift intervention is required to prevent it," said a special report sent to the Ministry of Health and other government offices by Medint, a HealthTech company that collaborated with the Ministry of Health during the COVID-19 pandemic. The 69-page report formulated by Medint makes several proposals for addressing the phenomenon, emphasizing tools for early detection and treatment of the target population.
Medint specializes in collecting and analyzing medical information to assist patients with severe and rare diseases in finding innovative treatments. The company was founded eight years ago by Tanya Attias, a former technological officer in an elite IDF intelligence unit, who sought to apply data collection and analysis capabilities from the military to the medical field. Medint’s primary investor is business entrepreneur Nir Kalkstein, founder of the successful algo trading company Final who became an active angel investor in the local high-tech industry. Medint gained attention during the COVID-19 pandemic when it mobilized a team of 200 researchers for the Ministry of Health to gather information on the pandemic to improve the response and prevent its spread. The company also submitted several reports on the subject to the Ministry of Health in 2021.
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מוסף שבועי 4.3.21 תניה אטיאס
מוסף שבועי 4.3.21 תניה אטיאס
Tanya Attias.
(Credit: Yuval Chen)
Now, under the leadership of Prof. Sharon Einav, who previously led the Intensive Care Unit at Shaare Zedek Medical Center and currently serves as the company's chief scientist, Medint is focused on post-trauma. According to Medint, there is a very short window of time to treat the population, before trauma turns into post-trauma. The company reports that the prevalence of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) in Israel is higher compared to developed countries, standing at around 9% compared to the maximum rate of 6.67% abroad. The highest rates of PTSD are, of course, among the families and friends of direct victims, and can affect one in three people. Even among emergency workers, the rate may reach 6% after a year and 4% among the general population exposed to events indirectly through social media or other media.
The prevalence of PTSD among civilians in conflict areas stands at 25.7% and increases with higher exposure to content related to the conflict. This poses a significant danger to the general population in Israel, especially after 7/10, when exposure to difficult content has now become part of daily life and contributes to a renewed increase in symptoms. The Medint report notes that daily exposure of more than two hours to communication and graphic images on social media applications leads to an increased risk of developing PTSD.
"We must act, and quickly," says Einav in conversation with Calcalist. "The literature shows that the window of time is a matter of weeks after exposure, so the healthcare system must start working on it immediately. It's not just about those who were physically present during the terrible events or on the battlefield; we are all affected by what we have seen, and a rapid diagnosis is needed because then the treatment can also be fast. Not everyone needs to meet with a psychologist or psychiatrist, there are many things that can be done digitally, such as remote treatment apps, games, or virtual reality. In Israel, a country considered prominent in medical startups, there are many tools available."
Medint believes that despite existing global frameworks for dealing with post-trauma following terror attacks, the events of 7/10 require unique tools. "We cannot copy the treatment for victims of 9/11 to Israel because the events have many different characteristics," explains Einav. "There is the Jewish dimension, the female dimension due to multiple cases of rape, and the issue of hostages. These are aspects that do not exist in other terror attacks. This is all before noting that the Israeli population already has experienced different levels of trauma from previous wars and events like the Second Intifada."
Medint's immediate recommendation is to map the affected population. For example, the army knows which soldiers dealt with the removal of bodies and who participated in battles. In the broader civilian population, this is a greater challenge and Medint recommends that anyone who visits a health clinic for any reason, including prescription renewal or referrals for tests, should fill out a basic questionnaire to identify if there are symptoms of post-trauma. Additionally, anyone waiting in line at a restaurant, for example, or any other place, should answer a short questionnaire to understand the extent of exposure to trauma and the presence of symptoms. Mapping should be conducted 3-4 times every three months because some people may not experience symptoms immediately but only after a few months, within a timeframe of up to a year.
Medint also recommends that a special body be established to oversee PTSD treatment at a national level. This should be done within three months from now so that in half a year, there will already be a list of available digital tools for treating the wider population. As a result, Medint estimates that within nine months it will be possible to treat anyone suffering from symptoms. The main goal, according to Medint, is to prevent the population from reaching a state where they suffer from post-trauma for more than a year, as treatment becomes more complex and more expensive for the healthcare system.
Beyond the medical field, one of Medint's recommendations is to establish a working group consisting of policy-makers, psychologists, and senior figures from the media to formulate guidelines for limiting the publication of violent and traumatic content in the media. Medint also suggests more explicit warnings before broadcasting challenging content, similar to warnings against the dangers of smoking. Additionally, they have suggested mapping children and adolescents to understand their level of exposure to difficult content on social media and to develop educational programs to manage and limit exposure. Another recommendation is to establish a dedicated website with self-diagnosis tools and coping strategies.
Einav says that the main goal of the report is to highlight the importance of rapid trauma response: "It is clear that in the Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Defense, there are concerns that if we start to test everyone it will open a Pandora's box, but it may that the situation will be not as bad as we think. Even looking at long-term costs, it is better to know the severity of the situation as soon as possible and not when people become addicted to sedatives or struggle to return to work or function."