As Marie Pryor shuffles along a Mississippi roadside collecting discarded drink cans to sell for a few cents, her breath comes in short puffs caused by a congenital heart defect. The same condition caused her granddaughter’s death earlier this year.
The last place on earth she would look for help is Iran, a country widely regarded in America as the enemy. The US and Iran have not had diplomatic relations for 30 years and the two governments trade daily insults over Iran’s nuclear programme. Last week Tehran charged three American hikers with espionage after they apparently strayed across the border.
But with Congress acrimoniously debating the reform of healthcare, it is to Iran that one of America’s poorest communities is turning to try to resolve its own health crisis.
A US doctor and a development consultant visited Iran in May to study a primary healthcare system that has cut infant mortality by more than two-thirds since the Islamic revolution in 1979.
Then, in October, five top Iranian doctors, including a senior official at the health ministry in Tehran, were quietly brought to Mississippi to advise on how the system could be implemented there.
The Mississippi Delta has some of the worst health statistics in the country, including infant mortality rates for non-whites at Third World levels.
“It’s time to look for a new model,” said Dr Aaron Shirley, one of the state’s leading health campaigners.
Can’t wait until the GOP hears about this one. They’ll likely scuttle it despite the merits. Sarah Palin’s ghostwriter will like coin a clever phrase like, “Death to America Panels” and the people of Mississippi will continue to be fucked by the best health care system in the world. Hell, many a Mississippi resident will probably protest with all their might for the privilege.