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IAEA Conference Identifies Challenges in Radiation Protection in Medicine

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(From left to right) Pablo Jimenez, PAHO Regional Advisor in Radiological Health, IAEA Director General Yukiya Amano and Joy St John, WHO Assistant Director-General for Climate and Other Determinants of Health at the end of the IAEA International Conference on Radiation Protection in Medicine. (Photo: C. Villarreal Silva/IAEA)

More training, more awareness and more effective implementation of regulations are needed to better protect patients and health professionals from undue radiation exposure related to medical procedures, participants in an IAEA conference held last week concluded.

The almost 550 participants in the International Conference on Radiation Protection in Medicine: Achieving Change in Practice widely agreed that efforts should focus on monitoring to reduce radiation exposure of tissue outside the targeted area in radiotherapy patients, eye protection from radiation in interventional procedures, and the implementation of clinical imaging guidelines.

Intensified work in these areas is conducted in response to the Bonn Call for Action, which was issued by the IAEA and the World Health Organization (WHO) following a 2012 international conference in Bonn, Germany, which provided for a decade long global roadmap on radiation protection in medicine.

Work conducted under the action plan contributes to safer diagnostic, therapeutic and interventional procedures involving medical radiation. It is estimated that around 10 million people undergo such treatment and diagnosis procedures every day.

“Ensuring that such procedures are safe is an integral part of our work,” said IAEA Director General Yukiya Amano in his closing speech. “The use of ionizing radiation in medicine greatly benefits individual patients and the general health of populations which are fortunate enough to have access to this technology. It is essential that patients and health professionals are protected from the harmful effects of radiation.”

Speakers at the 11-15 December 2017 conference in Vienna noted good progress halfway through the decade of action envisioned in the Bonn Call for Action, but also agreed that much work remains.

They highlighted the need for organizations and other stakeholders to work together for better results.

“Through conferences such as this, and in many other ways, the Agency plays a key role in enabling countries to share experiences and best practices,” Mr Amano said.

He noted that the IAEA’s Radiation Protection of Patients website was a leading source of information on the topic, and welcomed a new online toolkit to support implementation of the Bonn Call for Action. The toolkit enables the sharing of information and knowledge about the safe use of radiation, providing for better protection of patients and workers.

The way forward

At the conference, the IAEA and conference co-sponsors WHO and the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO), reconfirmed their commitment to safety and to the Bonn Call for Action.

Joy St John, WHO Assistant Director-General for Climate and Other Determinants of Health, said the Bonn Call for Action fosters international cooperation and functions as a global benchmark for advancing radiation safety and quality in health care.

“I give my personal commitment that WHO is determined to continue cooperating with the IAEA, in close collaboration with all relevant stakeholders, towards a safer and effective use of radiation in health care,” she said.

Pablo Jimenez, Regional Advisor in Radiological Health at PAHO, also expressed support to the call: “PAHO is looking forward to improve radiation safety in medicine through a continuous process of translating science into policies.”

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