Excellency, Distinguished Colleagues, Ladies and Gentlemen
It is my pleasure to congratulate the School of Public Health, Tehran University of Medical Sciences on the auspicious occasion of its 50th Anniversary. The School has come a long way since its founding and is now finally established as a leading regional institution in public health education and research.The development of the School of Public Health has paralleled the evolution of the health sector in the country. The Islamic Republic of Iran experienced a turning point in bridging the health gap between rural and urban populations in the 1970s when the first pilot project on accessing health services was implemented in the province of West Azarbaijan. The role of the School of Public Health was pivotal in the success of this project. Since then it has made significant contributions to the development of educational programmes, evidence generation through basic and applied research, networking of academic institutions, and policy advice to reform the health sector in Iran. The contributions of the School have received regional and global recognition.
I am pleased to know that the School of Public Health currently offers several master and doctoral programs in different disciplines of public health, in addition to a well-established programme of targeted short courses for continuing development of public health professionals. The institution has also contributed to the publication of many papers that have been instrumental in informing and influencing health policies in the country.The School has an elaborate infrastructure of accredited laboratories for polio, measles, rubella and influenza, along with the Regional Malaria Training Centre which works closely with WHO to monitor public health functions and carry out disease surveillance.
On this fitting occasion, Tehran University of Medical Sciences and the School of Public Health have selected the all-embracing subject of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) and Universal Health Coverage as two central themes of the conference. These are also key components of the World Health Organization’s own strategy for the Region. Since 2012, the World Health Organization Regional Office for the Eastern Mediterranean has pursued five strategic priorities which address the biggest health challenges facing our region. These are health systems strengthening towards universal health coverage; maternal and child health; prevention and control of noncommunicable diseases; health security and control of communicable diseases; and emergency preparedness and response.
Addressing these priorities is by no means an easy task. Nevertheless, institutions such as Tehran University of Medical Sciences are expected to provide academic leadership to pave the way in promoting evidence-informed, cost-effective and feasible interventions.Public health and health systems have a strong political dimension which requires public health leadership and diplomacy and, at the same time, innovation in the practice of public health. All schools of public health must be aware of and inculcate such competencies in their graduates. Indeed, these have been important features of the Leadership for Health Programme that WHO has organized in the Region for the past two years.
Let me take this opportunity to acknowledge the leadership provided by His Excellency Dr Hashemi, Minister of Health and Medical Education of the Islamic Republic of Iran in launching the Health Transformation Plan. This has helped make great strides towards universal health coverage in Iran.The World Health Organization has been actively involved in the preparation of this international conference. We remain committed to supporting public health programmes across academic institutions in Iran and in helping to accelerate progress towards the health goal of the Sustainable Development Goals, including Universal Health Coverage.
Thank you and I wish you a successful conference.