During a moving ceremony at the Seventy-sixth World Health Assembly in Geneva, the World Health Organization (WHO) honoured individuals and institutions from around the world for their exceptional contributions to public health. The 2023 public health prizes and awards highlighted the significant impact these individuals and organizations have made in advancing global health beyond the call of duty.
Recognizing Extraordinary Contributions
The World Health Assembly, following the closure of its session, issued a call for nominations for each prize. Nominations were invited from national health administrations of WHO Member States and previous recipients of the awards. After careful evaluation by dedicated selection panels, the Executive Board designated the winners for 2023.
Seven laureates were chosen to celebrate their unique roles and contributions to public health in their respective countries and worldwide. Spanning four WHO regions, namely the Americas, Eastern Mediterranean, South-East Asia, and the Western Pacific, these extraordinary individuals and institutions have made a lasting impact on health and well-being. Notably, five of the winners are individuals, and three of them are women. Both institutions recognized with the 2023 awards are led by women.
Winners of the 2023 Prizes
Sasakawa Health Prize
The prestigious Sasakawa Health Prize was awarded to the Nick Simons Institute from Nepal and Professor Vichai Tienthavorn from Thailand. The Nick Simons Institute is a remarkable non-governmental organization that has made significant strides in improving healthcare in rural areas of Nepal. Through collaboration with the Ministry of Health and Population of Nepal, the institute has successfully trained 7,000 medical professionals, including midwives and anaesthetic assistants, who now provide essential services to local communities. The institute has also provided crucial equipment and additional health personnel to 44 hospitals, addressing the scarcity of medical professionals in these areas. Furthermore, their research and advocacy efforts have positively influenced policies impacting rural health workers in Nepal.
Professor Vichai Tienthavorn, the President of the Praboromarajchanok Institute at the Ministry of Public Health of Thailand, has led groundbreaking initiatives in health promotion. His innovative policies have effectively addressed thalassemia prevention and control, diabetes, hypertension, and the uneven distribution of the health workforce. Through partnerships with village schools, Professor Tienthavorn has recruited and trained high-school students, enabling them to settle back in their local communities after completing an accelerated medical curriculum.
United Arab Emirates Health Foundation Prize
Dr. Maria Asuncion Silvestre from the Philippines was awarded the United Arab Emirates Health Foundation Prize. Renowned as a clinician, researcher, and advocate for exclusive breastfeeding, Dr. Silvestre is the founder of Kalusugan ng Mag-Ina (Health of Mother and Child), a non-governmental organization in the Philippines. Her pioneering protocol, applicable in all resource settings, has significantly contributed to bridging the health equity gap in mother-and-child care. Through partnerships with the national government of the Philippines and 17 countries in the WHO Western Pacific Region, she has played a pivotal role in scaling up the First Embrace campaign for Early Essential Newborn Care.
His Highness Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah Prize for Research in Health Care for the Elderly and in Health Promotion
The esteemed His Highness Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah Prize for Research in Health Care for the Elderly and in Health Promotion recognized the National Center for Chronic and Noncommunicable Disease Control and Prevention from China and Dr. Abla Mehio Sibai from Lebanon. The Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Center for Chronic and Noncommunicable Disease Control and Prevention has made significant contributions to advancing health promotion for older people through various programs and activities. Their initiatives range from comprehensive research and national surveillance to tailored health literacy programs and evidence-based policies. Their work has had a positive impact on the mental, cognitive, and overall health of older individuals in both urban and rural areas.
Dr. Abla Mehio Sibai, Professor of Epidemiology and Dean of the Faculty of Health Sciences at the American University of Beirut, has pioneered a holistic approach to the promotion of healthy aging. Through her initiatives, including the enrollment of older people at the University for Seniors, training public health professionals, and conducting national surveys on noncommunicable diseases, Dr. Sibai has significantly influenced policy-making and program planning for health promotion. Her dedication culminated in the development of the “National Strategy for Older Persons” in Lebanon, which outlines a comprehensive framework for addressing the needs of the elderly.
Dr. LEE Jong-wook Memorial Prize for Public Health
Dr. Jorge Francisco Meneses from Guatemala was honored with the Dr. LEE Jong-wook Memorial Prize for Public Health. With a focus on community participation in hospital care, Dr. Meneses established community-based committees to improve patient care and safety. His model of ethical and patient-centered care has been successfully scaled up at the national level. As the national supervisor for hospitals in Guatemala, he designed programs to enhance the quality of services for patients and their families. Dr. Meneses also spearheaded an innovative pilot project to establish the first national integrated network of health services, prioritizing underserved communities. His efforts resulted in the adoption of a national strategy for integrated health services networks, a first in Central America.
Nelson Mandela Award for Health Promotion
The prestigious Nelson Mandela Award for Health Promotion was bestowed upon Dr. Mariam Athbi Al Jalahma from Bahrain. As the Chief Executive Officer of the National Health Regulatory Authority of Bahrain, Dr. Al Jalahma has played a pivotal role in the development of national and regional strategies in primary healthcare, child and adolescent health, chronic diseases, and anti-smoking efforts. Her leadership has led to major successful initiatives, including the national accreditation system for health institutions and the digital transformation of the National Health Regulatory Authority. Dr. Al Jalahma’s commitment to health promotion has made her a prominent voice across the Gulf Cooperation Council.