International Health Care Systems Public Health

Iran: A model for Rural Health Care

Access to care for rural Americans can be difficult, even for individuals covered by Medicaid.  The New York Times examines whether Iran can serve as a model to serve rural Americans, such as those located in the Mississippi delta.

The Iranians built “health houses” to minister to 1,500 people who lived within at most an hour’s walking distance. Each house is a 1,000-square-foot hut equipped with examination rooms and sleeping quarters and staffed by community health workers — one man and one or more women who have been given basic training in preventive health care. They advise on nutrition and family planning, take blood pressure, keep track of who needs prenatal care, provide immunization and monitor environmental conditions like water quality. Crucially, in order to gain trust, the health workers come from the villages they serve.

People who become very sick, or require surgical procedures, are referred up through a single, multi-tiered system: from health house to rural health center to district hospital. The integrated nature of the system is what makes it unique. Today, 17,000 health houses serve 23 million rural Iranians.

The individuals interested in bringing ‘health houses’ to Mississippi, however, have not been very successful in securing funding from the federal government.  Who is interested in these health houses?  Private insurers.

“The only outside money that we’ve gotten to contribute to our project has been $75,000 from United Healthcare, the insurance company, because they see the potential to save them money,” he continued.


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