Iranian Volunteers Play Crucial Role in Sustainable Development

 Iranian Volunteers Play Crucial Role in Sustainable Development Iranian Volunteers Play Crucial Role in Sustainable Development

Public participation in economic and social development is no longer a choice, but a compulsion, says the director of the Health Ministry's Health Network Management Center.

"People's participation is now regarded as central to the promotion of sustainable health and healthcare," said Dr Jafar Sadeq-Tabrizi on the occasion of International Volunteer Day for Economic and Social Development (better known as International Volunteers Day) observed annually on December 5 around the world, ISNA reported.

The day hopes to help enhance awareness of peoples and governments regarding volunteerism. It also focuses on stimulating people to offer services as volunteers, both at home and abroad.

This year's theme 'Global Applause: Give Volunteers a Hand', recognizes volunteers worldwide and their contribution to making peace and sustainable development a reality.

"Public participation is a major principle of development as emphasized by the Alma-Ata Declaration, which particularly underscored the impact of volunteers in healthcare development," he noted.

The declaration was adopted at the International Conference on Primary Health Care (PHC) in Almaty (formerly Alma-Ata), Kazakhstan, September 6-12, 1978. It expressed the need for urgent action by all governments, all health and development workers, and the world community to protect and promote the health of all people. It was the first international declaration underlining the importance of primary health care.

The PHC approach has since then been accepted by member countries of the World Health Organization (WHO) as the key to achieving the goal of 'Health for All'.

Sadeq-Tabrizi took stock of the four principles of equality and equity, public participation, intersectoral collaboration, and use of proper technologies as the four basic principles in international healthcare.

Health information, guidance on prevention and healthy life choices, as well as training for knowledge and skills are among the services people should receive in a healthcare system, Sadeq-Tabrizi stressed.

Public participation helps build up people's opinions that can be worked into policies which will further encourage greater citizen participation, he maintained.

"It is important to include people in decision-making so that they assume serious responsibilities in healthcare and contribute to the tasks that health administrators take on."

Health Social Workers

"The first step toward that goal was implementing the healthcare volunteers program (or the social workers in healthcare system)," Sadeq-Tabrizi said.

The program was piloted for the first time in 1991 in towns surrounding large cities such as Tehran, Isfahan, Shiraz, and Tabriz. It was executed nationwide as of 2000 in all urban areas, and later expanded to rural regions.

Currently, there are 200,000 health volunteers working across Iran, 50,000 of whom are in rural and 150,000 in urban areas catering to a population of 20 million. Each volunteer covers 40 households.

"The volunteers are popular and trusted by the public," he said.

Besides making a meaningful contribution to the community, volunteers also participate in free educational classes at health stations and centers around the country to learn about fundamental concepts of healthy living for all age groups, and act as health messengers for households. They also remind families of their doctor's appointments and treatment schedules if they are suffering from a chronic condition.

The volunteers contribute significantly to screening communicable and non-communicable diseases as well as implementing national plans such as vaccination projects and educational campaigns.

Present in most organizations, offices, and non-governmental institutions, they can be instrumental in establishing the concept and culture of prevention of diseases.

They are "a cornerstone of the healthcare sector," said Sadeq-Tabrizi.


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