@Lancet editorial: Iran and Global Health Diplomacy

Note: This was cross-posted to my own blog.

Global health diplomacy is an emerging field that has been gaining traction and attention recently. There was a session on it at this year’s APHA Annual Meeting (which I unfortunately had to miss), as well as a pre-conference workshop for the bargain price of $30 – certainly a steal compared to the $100 pricetag on the Global Health Fellows Program’s Saturday session. Interestingly, Lancet Global Health ran an editorial on global health diplomacy in its new issue that was released this week, focused specifically on Iran. The piece is open access and short enough to be worth copying here in full.

In their Correspondence, Kamiar Alaei and colleagues (September, 2015) suggest that the Iran–USA relationship could be normalised through academic educational and research collaborations, which has been defined as global health diplomacy. Diplomacy no longer only concerns power, security, and economics, but global challenges such as health. Foreign policies (eg, economic sanctions) can endanger health as well as promote it.

The lifting of economic sanctions could stabilise, steadily driving up all prices including food to some extent, and address the limited availability of high quality drugs and medical devices. Sanctions have not only led to material shortages, but have also endangered mental health because of continuous threats. People exposed to stressful life events have higher mortality and morbidity. Moreover, research including medical research in Iran has suffered greatly during the international economic sanctions. One of the bibliometric indicators of a country’s scientific performance is the number of publications. According to Web of Science, the number of publications by Iranian authors in medical and health sciences has decreased from 23 409 in 2012 to 22 918 in 2013, whereas this number had been steadily increasing in the years before the economic and banking sanctions.

In conclusion, the Iran nuclear deal is an opportunity to strengthen the academic and scientific relationship between Iran and the USA and to promote medical research activity and public health especially in Iran. Since Iranian citizens compose the sixth largest group of international practising physicians in the USA, and in view of the academic positions that Iranian-Americans hold, their role in a scientific relationship could be prominent.

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