Pledging to build back better: UN agencies, Ministry of Health and international partners come together for a healthier tomorrow

Thursday, 28 April 2022 – The World Health Organization (WHO) in the Islamic Republic of Iran, Ministry of Health and Medical Education, United Nations agencies active in the field of health and representatives from the international community came together to join forces in commemoration of World Health Day 2022 and reaffirm individual and bilateral commitments in a meeting held on Tuesday 26 April in Tehran.

The third of its kind in a bimonthly series held at the request of the Minister of Health and Medical Education Dr Bahram Eynollahi as an experience-sharing platform, the roundtable also welcomed ambassadors from Spain, Japan, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cuba, Nicaragua and Hungary.

The meeting was opened with a speech by the Minister, followed by an address by the WHO Regional Director for the Eastern Mediterranean Dr Ahmed Al-Mandhari, in virtual attendance, who pointed to the importance of this year’s World Health Day theme ‘Our Planet, Our Health’. He expressed WHO's readiness to continue mutual collaboration with Islamic Republic of Iran for a healthier planet and a healthier future.

“COVID-19 has tested health systems across the globe and shown us that health inequity harms every member of the bigger community,” said Dr Eynollahi in his opening speech. “And so, collaborating with the international community and organizations and exchanging experiences and best practices are a priority for this Ministry under the slogan of ‘equity and excellence of the health system’.”

Underpinning bilateral and multilateral cooperation, the meeting mainly focused on creating a more resilient health system post COVID-19, working toward health equity for the people of Islamic Republic of Iran, as well as refugees and foreign nationals, by addressing social determinants of health with an emphasis on existing local competencies. Dr Al-Mandhari commended the Islamic Republic of Iran for their impressive efforts in operationalizing multisectoral collaboration on the ground, noting the recent accreditation of Sahand, the first Healthy City in the country, in 2021.

He also took note of this year’s World Health Day theme ‘Our Planet, Our Health’ and stressed the need to factor in all decision-making the intricate connection that exists between environmental risks and health. Noting the launch of the Report of the Commission on Social Determinants of Health in the Eastern Mediterranean Region in 2021, Dr Eynollahi and WHO called for joint working groups to address the social determinants of health across sectors as a means of building a healthier country and a healthier region.

Reiterating the interface between political, social and economic decisions and health, WHO Representative to Islamic Republic of Iran Dr Syed Jaffar Hussain underscored the country’s major achievement in sustaining a health system least affected by COVID-19 across the Region reflected in the continuation of efforts in immunization, noncommunicable diseases, elective surgeries, and access to health services.

“WHO works to help with how to convene and cooperate internationally and offers a collaborative advantage to bring Islamic Republic of Iran closer to other Member States in order to learn and exchange experiences, particularly in the aftermath of COVID-19,” he said.

The impacts of international sanctions on health factors, upsurge in cases of long-fought viruses such as measles in the Region, supporting local production of non-COVID-19 vaccines, providing health services to the refugee population, and engaging in joint vaccine production were among the topics introduced and discussed by attending ambassadors. In addition to these topics, representatives of UN agencies collectively flagged the importance of intersectoral collaboration at national and regional level to tackle environmental risks, including climate change, sand and dust storms and air pollution, among others.

The forum also expressed appreciation for health care workers as frontline workers of the health crises, who had risked their lives protecting people throughout the past 2 years of the pandemic, and paid tribute to all the lives lost as attendees pledged to build back better through planning ahead, combining efforts and exchanging knowledge.