Ministry of Health: Rise to the Occasion

Ministry of Health:  Rise to the Occasion Ministry of Health:  Rise to the Occasion

The ministry of health and medical education can contribute to and play a more effective role in boosting economic growth and development, especially in trying conditions and when oil revenues decline, an economic expert said at the weekend.

Houshyar Rostami believes the health ministry has potential that should be utilized efficiently in helping wean the economy out of the present morass and over-reliance on oil export.

“Given the volatility in the international oil market and the rapidly plummeting prices of black gold, oil economies would do better to focus on alternative sources of foreign exchange revenues for their survival,” he said.

By virtue of its heavy dependence on oil, the Iranian economy has faced numerous pitfalls ever since the mid-1990s, he says, arguing that it is high time “Iran should take the issue (cutting reliance on oil) more seriously.”

With the wide range of instruments the ministry of health and medical education has at its disposal, like the universities of medical sciences, hospitals, and other health facilities, it can help underpin economic growth, the expert told the Persian daily Ta’adol.

Tehran University of Medical Sciences (established in 1934) is the largest and highly ranked medical school in Iran. Iran University of Medical Sciences (founded in 1974), Shahid Beheshti University of Medical Sciences and Health Services (established in 1959) and Shiraz University of Medical Sciences (founded in 1950) are the other top medical centers of higher learning.    

Some of the main associations and bodies working under the supervision of the ministry include Iranian Society of Ophthalmology, Iranian Association of Medical Education, Iranian Society for Biomedical Engineering, Iranian Psychiatric Association, and the Association of General Practitioners.    

 Quality of Education

Universities of medical sciences under the auspices of the health ministry are capable of absorbing those interested in medical sciences and related courses from within and outside the country, Rostami argues.

“Due to the high quality of medical education, Iran is considered among the favorite destinations for medical studies among neighboring states. However, our universities do not offer medical courses in English, which is in fact a disadvantage.”

Still, a lot of the foreigners come to study medicine and are mostly interested in Persian language courses. “Getting familiar with Persian language can help foster harmony in and among nations of the region, and also serve as an instrument for safeguarding national security.”

 Short-Term Courses

Iranian universities of medical sciences as well as medical associations are capable also of offering short-term training courses at relatively lower costs, suggests Rostami, which he says is another comparative advantage in this part of the world.

“Neighboring states offer medical courses the quality of which can best be described as average, but the fees are high,” the expert noted without elaboration, save for only naming Jordan.

“Jordan, for example, holds three-day therapy training and the fees are nearly $10,000, while similar courses can be offered in Iran for $1000 dollars (inclusive of travel and accommodation).”

 Medical Tourism

Peoples of the neighboring countries are also keen to travel to Iran for advanced medical treatment, Rostami said. Pointing to medical tourism as a source of revenue across continents, he said the $100 billion turnover of this global industry is greater than “Iran’s assets frozen oversees” due to the sanctions imposed over Tehran’s nuclear program.

Iraq and Afghanistan, two neighbors have been involved in a vicious war for more than three decades and need Iran’s help in treating their war veterans and others. The expert called on the relevant officials to get into “long-term contracts with the two countries – especially Iraq, which is still involved in the brutal war with the so-called Islamic State (IS).

Revenues from medical tourism can be spent on further developing the healthcare system and other key sectors “especially in the present conditions when we are facing big challenges due to the rapidly plunging oil prices and the effects of the economic sanctions.”

The local media has reported often that “hundreds and thousands of pilgrim tourists from neighboring countries receive medical treatment in Iran every year” during and/or after their visit to the holy cities of Mashhad and Qom.