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IAEA Visits Mongolia to Assess Cancer Control Situation and Lay Foundations for Trilateral Cooperation with the Republic of Korea


Expert staff of the International Atomic Energy Agency on-site in Mongolia. (Photo: D. Subbotnitskiy/IAEA)

IAEA staff have reviewed Mongolia’s cancer treatment and diagnostic facilities under the Rays of Hope initiative during a visit to the country in August 2023. The mission included on-site visits to healthcare facilities and facilitated interaction between the Korea Institute of Radiological and Medical Sciences (KIRAMS), and officials from Mongolia’s Ministry of Health, laying the foundations for future cooperation.

"This mission is not just another assessment of Mongolia’s cancer care infrastructure, it is a cornerstone in laying the framework for long term trilateral cooperation between the IAEA, Mongolia, and the Republic of Korea (RoK)," Gashaw Wolde, Section Head in the Division for Asia and the Pacific at the IAEA's Department of Technical Cooperation said.

Discussions between the Korea Institute of Radiological and Medical Sciences, who were also part of the visit, and the Mongolia’s Ministry of Health resulted in an agreement to develop a roadmap and action plan to strengthen Mongolia’s healthcare capabilities, specifically in terms of cancer management. Areas for collaboration include strengthening and expanding existing radiation medicine facilities, supporting the IAEA’s upcoming imPACT Review Mission to the country, and establishing a radiation emergency medical system in Mongolia. With cancer cases expected to nearly double in the next 20 years, the IAEA is committed to supporting Mongolia expand their capacities in terms of nuclear medicine, nuclear physics and radiation oncology through existing and planned technical cooperation projects, and through support for partnerships.

The IAEA mission staff met representatives from the Mongolian Ministry of Health, national healthcare institutions and the Korea Institute of Radiological & Medical Sciences (KIRAMS). (Photo: D. Subbotnitskiy/IAEA)

Comprehensive Analysis and Detailed Blueprint for Future Developments

The mission team identified several critical areas for attention and highlighted the important subject of radiation and safety.

“Medical physics plays a vital role in ensuring the quality of imaging, radiation oncology and radiopharmaceutical therapies while minimizing radiation risks to patients,” says Peter Knoll, Medical Physicist at the IAEA, and a participant in the mission. “It ensures the best possible outcome can be reached for medical procedures involving radiation.”

Other recommendations focused on optimizing the use of existing healthcare facilities from an efficiency and effectiveness point of view.

IAEA staff visit facilities at the National Cancer Centre in Mongolia. (Photo: Ch. Khulan/NEC of Mongolia)

Future Developments

The mission's findings will contribute to Mongolia's comprehensive blueprint for the establishment of a second National Cancer Center (NCC2) - following further studies - and the construction of a new, technologically advanced building for cancer therapy at the First State Hospital. These plans are particularly significant as they align with Mongolia's broader healthcare strategy and Vision 2050 plan, and are expected to serve as a model for future cancer care projects in the region. Moreover, the mission serves as a scalable model for similar healthcare initiatives across the Asia and the Pacific region and the world.

Like many other countries, Mongolia faces unique healthcare challenges that demand customized, multifaceted solutions. Through the Rays of Hope initiative and this landmark mission, the IAEA is offering a targeted, systematic approach to tackling these challenges. The mission’s trilateral cooperation framework and the diverse funding possibilities discussed during the mission add layers of support and viability to these efforts and highlight the IAEA's unwavering commitment to promoting sustainable development through scientific and technological collaboration.

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