Seventh Meeting of Iran’s International Health Cooperation Group focuses on “healthy lifestyles”Aug 15, 2013
Against the background of increasing lifestyle-related diseases, Iran and the United Nations have been planning ways to reduce such risks to public health in the Islamic Republic.
According to WHO, in 2008, around 36 million of the 57 million (63%) global deaths were due to non-communicable diseases (NCDs). Nine million of these occurred in people under the age of 60. Deaths in low and middle income countries are projected to rise by 50% by 2030. Iran is classified as an upper-middle-income country.
This rapid increase is affecting the poor disproportionately as NCDs lead to increased healthcare costs, impoverish families and disable workers and create barriers to achieving the MDGs.
The 7th meeting of the Group was held on 14 August 2013 to explore ways of cooperation in the field of healthy lifestyle and non-communicable diseases.
The International Health Cooperation Group is a joint initiative of the Government, the Academy of Medical Sciences and UN agencies established in January 2012 with the aim of strengthening cooperation in the area of health. The Group has on board members from the Academy, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Ministry of Health and UN agencies residing in Iran.
The meeting was opened by Dr. Seyed Alireza Marandi the Chair of the Academy who welcomed the participants and emphasized the importance of adopting healthy lifestyles. Elaborating on the multi-dimensional nature of the issue, he called on the UN agency partners to help develop a holistic approach to promote healthy lifestyle.
Dr. Niknam, the Acting Health Minister for International Cooperation, in his opening remarks draw the attention of the meeting to equitable access to health services and elaborated on the challenges the Palestinian people are facing with regard to access to timely and quality health services.
Mr. Gary Lewis, UN Resident Coordinator spoke next, observing that healthy lifestyles are basically about interventions that reduce risks to the individual and to the community as a whole. “That is why health and development are themselves closely interlinked. The aim of improving health is fundamental principle underlying almost all of the Millennium Development Goals” Mr. Lewis said. He noted that improving health has become one of the five programme pillars in the joint United Nations Development Assistance Framework (UNDAF) with the Government of Iran.
Referring to the consequences of the sanctions put on Iran, Mr. Lewis stressed that “I cannot blithely talk of healthy lifestyles and simply ignore the distress which sick people in Iran are suffering as a result of their inability to access life-saving medicines.”
He noted that this issue was very much on the radar screen of the UN Secretary General, Mr. Ban Ki-Moon as reflected in SGs recent communication on this matter and extended all the support of the UN system in Iran to the full capacities and resources the partner UN agencies could offer.
The meeting continued with presentations by UN agencies on their experiences in Iran and other countries, regarding examples of UN initiatives that promoted healthy lifestyles. Many of those best case examples could be expanded and/or adapted to Iran’s conditions. Several suggestions were made from the floor on various aspects of promoting health and preventing diseases.
The Academy of Medical Sciences of Islamic Republic of Iran was established in 1990 as per the mandate given by the High Council of Cultural Revolution and Legislature of the Islamic Republic of Iran. It is one of the four academies of the country. The other three are: Academy of Sciences of Iran, Iranian Academy of the Arts and Academy of Persian Language and Literature. The current membership of the Academy consists of 56 high calibre professionals in the area of health chaired by Dr. Seyed Alireza Marandi, former Minister of Health and the champion of Iran’s successful family planning scheme and a current member of Majlis. The chair is nominated by the President of the Republic and endorsed by the High Council for a 4-year term.
At the initiative of Dr. Niknam, Acting Health Minister for International Cooperation, the International Health Cooperation Group was established in January 2012. The Group is composed of selected members of the Medical Academy, one representative from Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the following resident UN agencies: UNAIDS, UNDP, UNFPA, UNICEF, UNODC, and WHO. After the first few meetings which were spent on general issues, the Group agreed to meet on a regular basis with each meeting dedicated to a specific theme. The meeting are always held at the Academy and chaired by Dr. Marandi. Dr. Niknam serves as executive secretary.