October 11, 2015, Washington, DC — Dr. Ali Lotfizadeh and Dr. Mohsen Malekinejad, two doctors and public health professionals affiliated with the University of California, San Francisco, wrote an Op-Ed about the Iran Nuclear Deal’s effect on health in Iran and its implications around the globe. Although health issues have not been the main focus of the Iran Deal and are rarely mentioned in relation to it, the two physicians from UCSF Global Health Sciences and the Philip R. Lee Institute for Health Policy Studies reveal the immense impact the lifting of sanctions could have on Iran’s health system.
Due to the sanctions regime, Iranian medical institutions have had extremely restricted access to life-saving medicines. Thousands of Iranians affected by diseases like cancer and hemophilia will once again be able to receive treatment when the sanctions are lifted. Despite the restrictions that Iran has been facing, the country has been at the forefront of advancing medical care, has launched prevention and treatment programs for drug users, and has been hosting two of the three main treatment and surveillance hubs for HIV in the Eastern Mediterranean region.
Partnering with Iranian doctors has been difficult even for projects within the region. Lotfizadeh and Malekinejad point to attempts to train ophthalmologists in Tajikistan through a US-based NGO named PASHA. The NGO has had immense difficulty in hiring Iranian physicians to lead the training despite these physicians knowing the language and culture of Tajikistan better than American counterparts and Iran having several reputable ophthalmology training sites. The ability of Iran to cooperate with the West again will allow for more medical achievements in the region and around the world. Lotfizadeh and Malekinejad also explain benefits specific to the United States:
“Research shows that improving the health of disenfranchised communities increases their economic productivity. In today’s globalized economy, this growth can “trickle up” and reverberate through different parts of our globe including the United States,” they assert. “Strengthening partnerships with countries like Iran also bolsters our national security through the control of infectious disease outbreaks like Middle East Respiratory Syndrome, or MERS, and Ebola, which started in West Africa but found its way to our shores.”
The Iran Nuclear Deal will not only help to benefit Iran’s health system, but also partnerships and collaborations with the Middle Eastern country will lead to health advancements in the region and the world.
Click here to read the Op-Ed.
What is the ultimate goal of a bilateral partnership in global health?
Traditionally, bilateral global health partnerships were viewed as being unidirectional, meaning the ‘more advanced country’ would contribute resources to enhance healthcare in the ‘less advanced country’. But this view is changing and we are starting to acknowledge that these partnerships are in fact mutually beneficial. As a personal example, through our work in Tajikistan and Nepal with PASHA, we have not only contributed to advancing medical care for their citizens, but have learned lessons that could be applied to healthcare in other places including the United States. As we also argue in the piece, in our interconnected world, improving health in one part of our world can affect people in other parts.