United Nations Iran
سازمان ملل متحد در ایران
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Speech delivered on "Going beyond the bio-medical approach"

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Distinguished participants,

Ladies and Gentlemen,


  • Our subject of discussion today is cancer.
  • But this discussion takes place within a broader socio-economic trajectory.
  • I would like to speak a little about this. 
  • For our public health landscape in Iran is changing. 
    • Increased urbanization. 
    • Ageing populations. 
    • Changing lifestyles that lead to a shift in dietary patterns.
    • Environmental degradation. 
    • Weather and climate change which will come to influence the frequency of heatwaves, floods and storms as well as the transmission of infectious diseases.
  • These all contribute to the shifting nature of the health risks we face.
  • So, the point of my statement today is very simple. 
  • As our disease landscape changes, so too must we adapt not only our public health programmes, but also the social policies which affect Non-Communicable Diseases.
  • Or NCDs.
  • NCDs like cancer.


  • Now Iran’s national response to NCDs has, to date, been relatively good.
  • Here are a few examples:
    • Iran has put in place evidence-based national guidelines for the management of major NCDs.
    • There is an NCD surveillance and monitoring system is in place to enable reporting against the 9 global NCD targets. 
    • The national programme for prevention and control of NCDs – which is in line with the Global Action Plan for NCD control and prevention – was launched by the ‘Supreme Council for Health & Food Security’ in July 2015. 
  • This is all very encouraging.


  • And this approach will continue to receive support from initiatives at the global level.
  • Our new Sustainable Development Goals – the SDGs – provide a blueprint to tackle global issues, including health, by the year 2030.
  • And within the focus on “health” – or SDG3 – there is a sharper focus on NCDs.
  • The main NCDs:
    • cardio-vascular diseases (CVDs),
    • cancers,
    • chronic respiratory disorders (CRDs)
    • and diabetes
  • when grouped together, are among the world’s top 10 killers of human beings.
  • Drivers are:
    • Tobacco use,
    • Unhealthy diet,
    • Lack of exercise – leading to obesity,
    • Harmful use of alcohol.
  • And – so – we see the problem which Iran will increasingly face in the future.


  • Now, for the past 2 days, much of this conference will have been devoted to medical solutions.
  • And it is certainly important that we not overlook the importance of the bio-medical approach to health. 
  • But we can also make major improvements in health by simply taking coordinated action the health sector. 
  • This is especially the case when addressing the impact of NCDs like cancer.
    • For example, the SDGs also include several other targets that aim to reduce the exposure of people to carcinogens by creating a healthier environment with less pollution and contamination of air, water and soil (for example, Target 3.9).
  • So, for us to be able to work towards achieving this challenging global agenda, action on the social determinants of NCDs should take place both within and outside our health sector. 
  • This can happen:
    • If our leaders provide the right policy environment. 
    • If we take care of our air quality, and our food quality.
    • If our legal framework to enforce sound policy is strong.
    • It can happen if we govern equitably
    • …if we are sensitive to human rights, including the right:
      • to breathe clean air,
      • drink clean water and
      • eat food which is nutritious, affordable and accessible.
  • And here is the best news of all. 
  • Just as social and economic factors influence health – good health, in turn, has a positive impact on social and economic development.  On human development.


Dear Friends,

  • In all of this, the UN is here to help. 
  • At present, a significant amount of our development work in Iran focuses on the health sector. 
  • Our work in the past with the national authorities have mainly, been on communicable diseases – things like HIV, malaria, and tuberculosis. 

UNDAF (2017-2021)

  • However, I am pleased to say that our new development framework which will guide our work from 2017-2021 now has one dedicated outcome specifically devoted to on the Prevention and Control of Non-Communicable Diseases.
  • The UN system in Iran will offer continued support to the Government’s efforts including in the following focus areas:
    • tobacco control,
    • the prevention and treatment of diabetes,
    • cardiovascular disease,
    • chronic respiratory diseases and cancer,
    • addressing risk factors related to NCDs,
    • and reducing mortality due to substance abuse. 

UNDP CPD (2017-2021)

  • On top of this, the recently-approved UNDP Country Programme 2017-2021 will also supporting the Government to address rapidly emerging NCDs, in strong collaboration with WHO.
  • The primary focus of UNDP will include:
    • supporting increased collaboration by public health and non-health sectors in the national NCD response;
    • helping to develop the case for investment in combating NCDs;
    • promoting and supporting the expansion and transition of Global Fund activities to NCD activities.
    • supporting joint advocacy for innovative responses to NCDs.


  • Our goal is to help put an end to these diseases. 
  • Together I believe we will succeed.
  • The UN has already amassed a strong foundation of knowledge products and guidance on NCDs and social determinants of health. 
  • We are operating several global and regional work streams that address the social determinants of NCDs.
  • And we are providing support to our counterparts here in Iran.
  • And there is so much more we will do together
  • In closing, I would like to congratulate the Iranian Cancer Association for having the vision to continue to raise awareness through events like the West Asia Cancer Conference.
  • Please join me in thanking this team of committed professionals every success in building lasting partnerships. 
  • Let us urge others to follow suit.
  • Achieving the global goals will require us to work collaboratively and strengthen our health systems in tackling the challenges we are to face.
  • In this task the UN system in Iran stands ready to assist in finding solutions to NCDs – including cancer.

Kheily motashekeram.

Last modified onWednesday, 23 November 2016 17:49
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