The Isfahan Healthy Heart Program (IHHP) Course....A Memorable Experience.
Checking-in at Heathrow airport in London I was faced with yet another puzzled face looking back at me…. “you’re going to Iran for a course?!”. This seemed a not-so-uncommon reaction to my plan on traveling to Isfahan which was hosting its ‘7th IHHP Training Course on Non-Communicable Disease Prevention and Health Promotion’. There I was waiting to board my flight to the city also know as ‘Nesfe Jahan’ which literally translates to ‘half the world’ because of its many sights. The first clue to my arrival on Iranian land was the scurried whipping out of head scarves by all women on board. This is a land shrouded by mystery and with a certain image popularized by the western media. As I stepped into the new Imam Khomeini International airport in Tehran, all new and sparkling, I noticed that already the perceptions I had were starting to show cracks. I took a taxi to Isfahan, taking just over 4 hours and got a glimpse of the landscape, nothing too interesting but then I kept nodding off, then my driver indicated that we had arrived In Isfahan. The city is known for its greenery and being spring, the flowers were starting to bloom. The city center was bustling but what was striking was the cleanliness of the main streets. The historical monuments are numerous and beautiful, but the ordinary sights are the most memorable e.g. seeing women in black chadors (the traditional Iranian women’s wear) exercising in the local parks, and groups of elderly men and women happily exercising to Iranian music with a trainer on a basketball court. This is not an image I thought I would see, but there you are… don’t judge a book by its cover! The Iranian people are some of the most hospitable and friendly people I have met. The course is a combination of lectures by the IHHP leaders and the participants and field visits to some of the collaborating centres ranging from kindergartens, schools to health care centers and local factories. This is a city which has proved that community interventions can be successful in addressing the risk factors of cardiovascular disease. It involves individuals, community and environmental changes to support health behaviour modification in healthy nutrition, tobacco control, physical activity and stress management. The link to their website is http://ihhp.mui.ac.ir/ihhp/topten.aspx?id=57 . I will be posting photos very soon to give you a hint of what we saw, images speak louder than words!
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