Oral public health as an export

Co-operation between the University of Helsinki and the University of Tehran bears fruit.

Oral public health A co-operation programme between the University of Helsinki and the University of Tehran, which started out as a pilot project for the WHO, is beginning to show results.

“The first doctorate within the programme was completed last spring, and we are soon looking at several more, as there will be three more doctorates completed within a short time,” says Professor Heikki Murtomaa from the Institute of Dentistry.

The purpose of the programme is to improve oral health care in Iran. The point of departure was to provide teaching mainly in Iran and to focus on research topics relevant to the country.

“In this programme, the mountain came to Mohammed,” says Professor Murtomaa, who has made several trips to lecture in Tehran.

The University of Helsinki has shared its know-how with Iranian students on such topics as epidemiology, statistical science and economics. “The public health perspective has been in key position in this programme,” Professor Murtomaa says. He hopes development in the field of oral public health in Iran would help improve general living conditions in the country.

“The first students to graduate within the programme were recently appointed to head dental health at Iran’s Ministry of Health and Medical Education,” Murtomaa says with pride. The other eight graduates seem to have found good positions, too, in teaching or in the field of basic and applied research.

The programme, which was launched at the end of the 1990s, has proved challenging at times, and cultural clashes have not been altogether avoided. “It is not easy to be a pioneer, but it is worth the effort,” Murtomaa says.

Mutual cultural understanding has increased in the course of the programme and the entire process has been a great acknowledgement of the high standard of the Institute of Dentistry and Finnish oral public health in general.

Text: Sanna Agullana
Photo: Heikki Murtomaa

Translation: AAC Noodi Oy

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