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The Iranian Connection

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JACKSON, MS (Mississippi News Now) -

What most Americans identify with Iran is the country's quest to gain nuclear weapons or its controversial leader. But Iran has formed a unique partnership since 2009, that could help under served Mississippians get much needed healthcare.

We talked with a group who spent a little over two weeks in Kish, Iran in September. They were there to see first hand how Iranian healthcare providers are helping the poor and under served in their country. Angela Cousin is a registered nurse and volunteer who grew up in the Mississippi Delta.

"They didn't have real high tech things, very simple tools, but very effective tools and they were very efficient with it," said Cousin.

In Iran, community health workers are trained at hospitals and other medical facilities to go back into their villages to help with everything from prenatal care to blood pressure checks, diabetes, diet and nutrition.

"They really are the bridge between the healthcare system, doctors, hospitals, clinics and their actual communities," Whitney Sanjari, a Community Health Education Specialist said.

Dr. Aaron Shirley who is spearheading the effort in Mississippi says the goal is to have 10 certified and trained community health workers in the Mississippi Delta. Lynetter Webster is an instructor.

"We have to find the young ladies down here that really have the passion and really want to help others," said Webster.

Dr. Shirley and Dr. Mohammad Shahbazi, say community health workers will help to reduce cost by working directly with poor and uninsured patients who typically use emergency rooms for basic healthcare.

"Its not there to take away their money, its there to help them to be healthy and I think once we create that kind of environment situation people are going to cooperate with you," Dr. Shahbazi said.

Dr. Shirley says the program will focus on prevention. He hopes to train welfare recipients as community health workers. A pilot program will target 5 counties in the Delta.

The five counties are Coahoma, Bolivar, Washington, Humphreys, and Sunflower.

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