Iran’s healthcare system is highly centralized. Almost all related decisions are made at the central level by the MOHME. The Ministry provides healthcare services through its network, medical insurance, and supervises and regulates the healthcare system in the country. Its authority also includes policy-making , production and distribution of pharmaceuticals as well as research and development. Through its network of health establishments and medical schools, the Ministry has become the largest healthcare provider in the country.
Iran’s “Master Health Plan”, adopted in the 1980s accorded priority to basic curative and preventive services as opposed to sophisticated hospital-based tertiary care, and focused strictly on the population groups at highest risk, particularly in deprived areas. Moreover, as a result of the prioritization and effective delivery of quality primary health care, health outcome in rural areas are almost equal to those in urban areas. The results in terms of infant and maternal mortality are nearly identical.
Therefore, Iran has fairly good health indicators. More than 85 per cent of the population in rural and deprived regions, for instance, has access to primary healthcare services. The infant mortality rate is 28.6 per 1,000 live births; under-five mortality rate is 34 per 1,000 and maternal mortality rate is 25 per 100,000 live births. Poliomyelitis has been reduced to the point of near-eradication and the coverage of immunization for children and pregnant women is very extensive. Access to safe drinking water has been provided for over 90 per cent of Iran’s rural and urban population, and more than 80 per cent of the population has access to sanitary facilities.
In the past three decades, the Islamic Republic of Iran has adopted a policy aimed at more strongly addressing the needs of its population, and substantial progress has been achieved both in the social and economic sectors. Since the revolution in 1979, a Primary Health Care network has been established throughout the country. In rural areas, each village or group of villages contains a Health House, staffed by trained community health workers. These Health Houses, which constitute the basic building blocks for Iran’s health network, are the health system’s first point of contact with the communities in rural areas. In addition, Rural Health Centers were put in place. They include a physician, a health technician and an administrator, and deal with more complex health problems. On average, there is one Rural Health Center per 7,000 inhabitants. In urban areas, similarly distributed urban health posts and Health Centers have been established. The whole network is managed and administered through District Health Centers, which are supervised by the MOHME.
Despite having a proper and elaborate system in place, Iran, has not been able to keep pace with the rapidly changing demographic developments. Rural areas in some parts of the country are not fully covered and health centers are inadequately equipped to meet community needs.