Global health diplomacy in practice bi-lateral cooperation to improve rural health systems in t...


During a 2004 European research trip by Oxford International Development Group (OIDG) in Mississippi, a meeting with representatives from Iran President Khatami’s Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs led to a discussion of that country’s Primary Health Care (PHC) system, one that had made tremendous strides improving the health of its rural population. This success was achieved despite a critical lack of resources, including trained medical personnel, and implementation during a period of extreme social upheaval caused, in part, by the eight year Iran-Iraq War. Iran’s progress was in stark contrast to the systemic failures and pervasive abysmal health indicators in the impoverished Mississippi Delta region. After President Barack Obama’s inauguration in 2009, OIDG contacted Iranian public health experts to ask for help adapting their PHC model to Mississippi Delta challenges. This respectful outreach by Americans to Iranians led to the establishment of the Iran/Mississippi Delta Rural Health Care project, which is now well positioned to demonstrate that humanitarian collaboration - and an example of the power of health diplomacy - between the US and Iran can build much-needed trust at this critical time. For the Delta, the project offers the potential to improve the health of its most at-risk citizens; for Iran, it is an opportunity to demonstrate to the U.S. the viability of their PHC system and the dedication of their public health professionals in improving the lives of the less-fortunate, even in the United States.