Division of Human Health

The goal of the IAEA programme in Human Health is to enhance the capabilities in Member States to address needs related to the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of diseases through the application of nuclear techniques. This mandate arises from Article II of the IAEA's Statute: "The Agency shall seek to accelerate and enlarge the contribution of atomic energy to peace, health and prosperity throughout the world."

Nuclear and radiation techniques are commonly used in the diagnosis and treatment of a large numbers of health problems such as infectious and non-communicable diseases (cardio-vascular disorders or cancer). Nuclear medicine procedures with radioactive sources are used for the diagnosis and management of diseases. Diagnostic radiology is the use of X-rays and CT (Computerized Tomography) in the detection of diseases. PET/CT is a combination of Nuclear Medicine with radiological test that allows better detection and staging of diseases by displaying both morphological and functional abnormalities within the affected organs. Radiotherapy is used to complement surgery or sometimes chemotherapy for cancer treatment. Radiation used in both diagnostic and therapeutic purposes must be delivered in the most effective and safest way. The radiation dose delivered to the patients during those medical procedures must be closely monitored by dosimetric tests performed by medical physicists. By improving dosimetry measurements around the world, the IAEA, through its dosimetry laboratory at Seibersdorf, helps ensure that cancer patients treated with radiation beams receive the correct doses, no matter where in the world they are being treated. In addition, the human health programme supports the application of nuclear techniques in nutrition, in particular stable isotope techniques, to combat malnutrition in all its forms. These techniques include reference methods for assessment of body composition, bone mineral density, human milk intake, total daily energy expenditure, micronutrient bioavailability and vitamin A status.

Overall the sub-programmes of the Division of Human Health fall into four main categories: Nuclear Medicine and Diagnostic Imaging, Radiation Oncology and Cancer Treatment, Quality Assurance and Metrology in Radiation Medicine and Nutrition for Improved Health. The Division executes its programme activities through four administrative sections:

  • Nuclear Medicine and Diagnostic Imaging
  • Applied Radiation Biology and Radiotherapy
  • Dosimetry and Medical Radiation Physics
  • Nutritional and Health-Related Environmental Studies