The prizes are established either in the name of eminent health professionals and international figures or by prominent foundations that commit to support international and global public health innovation and success.
Sasakawa Health Prize
2023 laureates: Professor Tienthavorn from Thailand, and the Nick Simons Institute from Nepal
“I now present this prize with my deep respect to the outstanding work of both recipients and my desire that they will continue to work as pioneers in further advancement of primary health care”, said Mr Yohei Sasakawa, Chairman of the Nippon Foundation, and WHO Goodwill Ambassador for Leprosy, when awarding the prizes to the two laureates.
Pictured here from left: Hon Chris Fearn, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Health of Malta and WHA76 President; Dr Archana Amatya of Nepal, Executive Director of the Nick Simons Institute; WHO Director-General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus; Mr Yohei Sasakawa, Chairman of the Nippon Foundation and WHO Goodwill Ambassador for Leprosy. © WHO / Pierre Albouy
The Nick Simons Institute is a nongovernmental organization aiming to improve health care and fill health workforce gaps in rural areas of Nepal. In cooperation with the Ministry of Health and Population of Nepal, it has trained 7000 medical professionals (such as midwives and anaesthetic assistants) in rural areas, to enable them to provide the services that are most needed by the local population in the absence of a sufficient pool of general practitioners and specialists. The Institute has supplied essential equipment to 44 hospitals, ensured the presence of human resources to help alleviate the lack of medical professionals in rural areas, and helped for building an action plan for service quality improvement in more than 100 hospitals.
“This is the first time that a health champion from Nepal has been awarded this prize – which makes it even more special for us, motivating the country to progress further on, with innovative solutions for primary health care in rural areas.”, said Dr Archana Amatya, Executive Director of the Nick Simons Institute. “We feel extremely honored and receiving this prize is indeed a significant achievement. My utmost respect goes out to the entire team whose efforts have made the Institute achieve its success over the years. This award motivates us to do better in the days to come.”
Pictured here from left: Hon Chris Fearn, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Health of Malta and WHA76 President; Professor Vichai Tienthavorn, President of the Praboromarajchanok Institute at the Ministry of Public Health of Thailand; WHO Director-General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus; Mr Yohei Sasakawa, Chairman of the Nippon Foundation and WHO Goodwill Ambassador for Leprosy. © WHO / Pierre Albouy
Professor Vichai Tienthavorn is President of the Praboromarajchanok Institute at the Ministry of Public Health of Thailand. One major initiative he led is an innovative health promotion approach to tackling thalassemia, which has resulted in the adoption of an effective national policy for thalassemia prevention and control. Another impactful initiative stemmed from his effective communications tool which helps individuals adapt behaviours so that they prevent and control diabetes and hypertension. A national policy was formulated and endorsed as a result, helping reduce the general burden of disease in the country. Professor Tienthavorn is also a champion in addressing the challenge of the maldistribution of the health workforce, especially in border and rural areas of the country.
“This is a most fortunate moment in my life”, said Professor Vichai Tienthavorn when accepting the Prize. ”The Praboromrajchanok Institute (PBRI) bears the name of Prince Mahidol, the father of Thailand’s modern medicine and public health. PBRI trains 4000 nurses annually. We offer health and public health trainings to students from rural marginalized areas, at the rural primary care facilities. My never-ending effort will continue. The award is not only for me but also a high recognition for the entire PBRI team.”
United Arab Emirates Health Foundation Prize
2023 winner: Dr Maria Asuncion Silvestre, Philippines
“The aim of the United Arab Emirates Health Foundation Prize is to motivate health workers, including scientists, researchers, workers and specialists”, said Dr Hussain Abdul Rahman Al Rand, Assistant Undersecretary for the Public Health Sector, when delivering the prize on behalf of the UAE Health Foundation, “in order to make further achievements that benefit health in its various sectors and to contribute with the United Nations system in general and the World Health Organization in particular to the implementation of projects and programmes that strengthen health for all around the world and address health challenges globally.”
Pictured here from left: Hon Chris Fearn, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Health of Malta and WHA76 President; Dr Maria Asuncion Silvestre from the Philippines; WHO Director-General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus; Dr Hussain Abdul Rahman Al Rand, Assistant Undersecretary for Public Health Sector, Ministry of Health and Prevention of the United Arab Emirates. © WHO / Pierre Albouy
Dr Maria Asuncion Silvestre is a renowned clinician and researcher, a passionate advocate for exclusive breastfeeding and the founder of a nongovernmental organization “Health of Mother and Child”. She has used her experience as a practitioner in her community and her findings as a researcher to improve the health of mothers and newborns. She designed a pioneering protocol consisting of a simple set of choreographed actions for health workers attending a mother during delivery and her newborn immediately after birth and during the first week of the child’s life. This affordable Essential Intrapartum and Newborn Care Protocol helps to bridge the health equity gap. Her work has helped save lives at national level and beyond. In collaboration with her national government and 17 other countries of the WHO Western Pacific Region, Dr Silvestre scaled up the “First Embrace” campaign for Early Essential Newborn Care, a set of simple WHO-recommended and cost-effective interventions.
“Nonseparated, the mother/newborn pair is our first food system. We should protect it as passionately and as furiously as we protect our agricultural lands, our coral reefs, our rainforests”, saidDr Maria Asuncion Silvestre at the award ceremony. “We sought to “rechoreograph” actions in the first minutes to hours after birth, eliminating unnecessary actions, so we formulated a timebound sequence of steps. Many health facilities in my country and elsewhere implemented the Protocol and reaped the benefits. Evidence shows that receiving at least one of the four core steps was protective, the more elements of essential care received, the more newborn survival improved. Breastfeeding saves lives.”
State of Kuwait “His Highness Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah Prize for Research in Health Care for the Elderly and in Health Promotion”
2023 awardees: The National Center for Chronic and Noncommunicable Disease Control and Prevention, China, and Dr Abla Mehio Sibai, Lebanon
In his address to the Seventy-sixth World Health Assembly and the winners, H.E. Dr Ahmed Abdulwahab Ahmed Al-Awadhi – Minister of Health of the State of Kuwait, said: “This Prize and its 2023 laureates whom we celebrate today constitute a shining example of the constructive initiatives on the path of the beneficial cooperation between the State of Kuwait and the World Health Organization, which dates to more than six decades now. I wish the winners further progress and success in their endeavors of paying tribute to older citizens. I hope that the award will serve as an incentive for more innovation and contributions to promote global solidarity to safeguard the rights of the elderly to health care, in our joint effort to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals.”
Pictured here from left: Hon Chris Fearn, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Health of Malta and WHA76 President; Professor Jing Wu, Director of the China National Center for Chronic and Noncommunicable Disease Control and Prevention; WHO Director-General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus; H.E. Dr Ahmed Abdulwahab Ahmed Al-Awadhi, Minister of Health of the State of Kuwait. © WHO / Pierre Albouy
The National Center for Chronic and Noncommunicable Disease Control and Prevention (NCNCD), part of the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention (China CDC), has hosted a department focusing on the health of older people since 2013. It delivers a broad range of programmes and activities that advance health promotion for older people, ranging from better understanding the causes of morbidity and mortality through surveys, death registries and research, to designing tailored programmes to promote health literacy. Initiatives include a dedicated toolkit for older people, capacity‑building of 2000 primary care staff, and a health advocacy week dedicated to older people.
“The Chinese often say that filial devotion is the most important of all virtues. Respecting and loving older people has always been a traditional virtue of the Chinese people for thousands of years”, said Professor Jing Wu, Director of NCNCD of China. “The Chinese government has attached great importance to elderly health, implemented the healthy aging strategy, and integrated the concept of healthy aging into the entire process of social economic and development. We carried out a broad range of health programmes to improve the health status, sense of achievements and happiness of the elderly. I would like to share this honor with all those who work with us to promote the health of the elderly.”
Pictured here from left: Hon Chris Fearn, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Health of Malta and WHA76 President; Dr Abla Mehio Sibai, Professor of Epidemiology and Dean of the Faculty of Health Sciences at the American University of Beirut in Lebanon; WHO Director-General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus; H.E. Dr Ahmed Abdulwahab Ahmed Al-Awadhi, Minister of Health of the State of Kuwait. © WHO / Pierre Albouy
Dr Abla Mehio Sibai is Dean of the Faculty of Health Sciences at the American University of Beirut in Lebanon. With an outstanding contribution to older people’s health in Lebanon and the region, she has developed and applies a holistic approach when promoting healthy ageing. She co-led the landmark WHO Global Burden of Disease Study in Lebanon (2000) and conducting the first national survey on noncommunicable diseases and risk factors, using the WHO STEPwise approach (2008–2010) – the country’s main source of data for the Ministry of Public Health, informing advocacy, policy-making and programme planning for health promotion. Building on her rich experience, she developed the “National Strategy for Older Persons” in Lebanon (2020–2030). Close to 600 older people enroll every year at the University for Seniors, under her management. She was instrumental in creating the Arab Ageing Network and the Centre for Studies on Ageing – linking research and policy at the national, regional and international levels.
“This award comes at a very critical time for Lebanon, my home country, a country facing one of the most severe economic crises in modern times”, saidDr Abla Mehio Sibaiwhen receiving the Prize. “The crisis has hit our older population the hardest, and it remains our duty, as public health professionals, to strive for their rights to social protection, to health and social care, and self-realization. The prize puts on me greater responsibility to continue work in making the world a safer, more just, and dignified place for our seniors. This Prize is a tribute to all those who share this vision.”
Dr LEE Jong-wook Memorial Prize for Public Health
2023 laureate: Dr Jorge Francisco Meneses, Guatemala
When presenting the Prize to the winner, Dr Myoung-don Oh, Board Member, Korea Foundation for International Healthcare (KOFIH), said: “KOFIH has been dedicated to improving public health for decades. It has promoted healthcare cooperation globally, committing to reducing health inequality worldwide. As part of this effort, the Memorial Prize was established to uphold Dr Lee’s core value of promoting public health. By doing so, KOFIH endeavors to create a healthier world and to strengthen long-term public health around the world. Among the many contributions Dr Meneses has made is the ethical and patient-centered care model and the national strategy of integrated health service networks – making Guatemala stand out as the only country in Central America to be using such an innovative strategy.”
Pictured here from left: Hon Chris Fearn, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Health of Malta and WHA76 President; Dr Jorge Francisco Meneses from Guatemala; WHO Director-General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus; Dr Myoung-don Oh, Board Member, Korea Foundation for International Healthcare. © WHO / Pierre Albouy
Nowadays serving as the national supervisor for hospitals in Guatemala, Dr Jorge Francisco Meneses promoted community participation in hospital care for over 20 years, by setting up community-based committees focusing on the safety and satisfaction of patients, their families and the community. The quality of patient care has significantly improved in his country, thanks to the model of ethical and patient-centred care that Dr Meneses has designed and helped to scale up at the national level. In recent years, Dr Meneses has coordinated a pilot project in the Guatemala South Health Area as the first-ever integrated network of health services in the country, aimed at providing services to underserved communities. This outstanding work resulted in the adoption of a national strategy of integrated health services networks, the first in Central America.
When accepting the honourable memorial prize, Dr Jorge Francisco Meneses said: “I am firmly convinced that integrated health service networks based in primary health care constitute the strategy to ensure that my country Guatemala can bring about meaningful change in its health system, promoting equity in health care.” He reaffirmed his objective of “ensuring that health services are brought closer to the population and that everyone who currently lacks access to health services can benefit from continuity of care, who now do not have access to health care”.
Nelson Mandela Award for Health Promotion
2023 awardee: Dr Mariam Athbi Al Jalahma, Bahrain
“Let us again recall the words of Nelson Mandela: “health cannot be a question of income; it is a fundamental human right,” said Ambassador Mxolisi Nkosi, South African Representative to the United Nations and other organizations in Geneva, Switzerland. “May this award continue to inspire your work as well as that of others in the effort to follow the path to ensuring health for all and in promoting the social equity ideals that Nelson Mandela represented. Congratulations to Dr Mariam Athbi Al Jalahm.“
Pictured here from left: Hon Chris Fearn, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Health of Malta and WHA76 President; Dr Mariam Athbi Al Jalahma, Chief Executive Officer of the National Health Regulatory Authority of Bahrain; WHO Director-General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus; Ambassador Mxolisi Nkosi, South African Representative to the United Nations and other organizations in Geneva, Switzerland. © WHO / Pierre Albouy
Dr Mariam Athbi Al Jalahma is the Chief Executive Officer of the National Health Regulatory Authority of Bahrain and has held various leadership positions in government and academic institutions in her country. Dr Al Jalahma has played a major role in the development of multiple national and region-wide strategies and plans covering primary healthcare, child and adolescent health, chronic diseases and antismoking. In her current role, Dr Al Jalahma has led major successful initiatives, including a national accreditation system for health institutions in Bahrain, an initiative towards digital transformation, and initiatives to increase the Authority’s revenue and efficiency. She also engages in health promotion activities on radio and television shows aired across all countries of the Gulf Cooperation Council.
“I want to dedicate this award to all the healthcare workers, including doctors, nurses, and public health officials, in my country and all over the world, who have dedicated their lives to ensuring that people live healthy lives”, said Dr Al Jalahma during the award ceremony. “For 37 years of working in the health sector as a family physician, manager, leader, and in my voluntary work, health promotion was always in the heart of my work. It has been a rewarding experience. I urge everyone to continue working towards promoting health and well-being in our communities. We have the power to make a difference, and we should not shy away from taking action to improve the health outcomes of our people.”
Read detailed information about the public health prizes and awards 2023 process.
Full information can be found in this 76th World Health Assembly document (A76/INF./1).