The International Atomic Energy Agency’s Activities in Radiation Medicine and Cancer: Promoting Global Health Through Diplomacy

Authors: Amanda N. Deatsch-Kratochvil, Thomas Neil Pascual, MD, MHPEd, Adam Kesner, PhD, Eduardo Rosenblatt, MD, Rethy K. Chhem, MD, PhD (Edu), PhD (History)


Global health has been an issue of seemingly low political importance in comparison with issues that have direct bearing on countries’ national security. Recently, health has experienced a “political revolution” or a rise in political importance. Today, we face substantial global health challenges, from the spread of infectious disease, gaps in basic maternal and child health care, to the globalization of cancer. A recent estimate states that the “overall lifetime risk of developing cancer (both sexes) is expected to rise from more than one in three to one in two by 2015.” These issues pose significant threats to international health security. To successfully combat these grave challenges, the international community must embrace and engage in global health diplomacy, defined by scholars Thomas Novotny and Vicanne Adams as a political activity aimed at improving global health, while at the same time maintaining and strengthening international relations. The IAEA (International Atomic Energy Agency) is an international organization with a unique mandate to “accelerate and enlarge the contribution of atomic energy to peace, health, and prosperity throughout the world.” This article discusses global health diplomacy, reviews the IAEA’s program activities in human health by focusing on radiation medicine and cancer, and the peaceful applications of atomic energy within the context of global health diplomacy.