Awards for outstanding contributions to public health presented during the Seventy-fifth World Health Assembly

During a moving ceremony at the Seventy-fifth World Health Assembly in Geneva, awards were presented to a group of individuals from around the world for their outstanding contributions to public health.

Opening the award ceremony, Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director-General of the World Health Organization, said: ”The 2022 public health prizes and awards celebrate people and institutions for successfully addressing a huge array of health challenges around the world. It is an honour for us to come together to acknowledge these true champions of health. I thank the foundations and institutions who so generally support these awards.”

Many of the prizes awarded have been established by, or set up in memory of, an eminent public health professional.

The call for nominations of candidates for each prize is sent out each year after closure of the World Health Assembly. Nominations can be made by national health administrations of a WHO Member State and by any former recipient of the prizes. The 2022 winners were selected at the 150th session of the Executive Board, in January 2022, on the basis of recommendations made by the dedicated selection panels for each prize.

Winners of the 2022 prizes
Ihsan Doğramacı, Family Health Foundation Prize
Award winner: Professor Mehmet Haberal, Turkey

A pioneer in the fields of general surgery, transplantation, and burn treatment Professor Haberal has helped establish a legal framework for organ transplantation in Turkey, while enhancing its social acceptability through a holistic approach to family and community health, working with families of patients with terminal conditions and with religious leaders. His leadership and collaboration with national, regional and global institutions have led to the creation of numerous organ transplantation centres in Turkey and the training of many health professionals interested in this field of work.

Sasakawa Health Prize
Award winner: Dr Paisan Ruamviboonsuk, Thailand

An ophthalmologist specializing in retinal eye care, Dr Ruamviboonsuk has, over the past 25 years, focused on addressing the second leading cause of blindness in Thailand – diabetic retinopathy. He invented and started using a special screening method, then piloted an initiative to train non-ophthalmological personnel to use it and be able to correctly detect retinopathies everywhere in Thailand, even in the most remote areas. As a result of his work, diabetic retinopathy screening is now a nationwide programme run by the Ministry of Public Health, free of charge for all.

United Arab Emirates Health Foundation Prize
Award winner: Nicaragua’s Network for Fighting Malaria

The National Malaria Component of the Ministry for Citizen’s Power for Health of Nicaragua, together with the community network of voluntary collaborators (ColVol), has been key in implementing the national programme of malaria control for over 50 years. A community of local health workers who focus on the surveillance, diagnosis and treatment of malaria in the municipality of Puerto Cabezas, Nicaragua, ColVol are leaders in community engagement, reaching remote and ethnically diverse communities. The burden of disease of malaria has significantly decreased in the communities served.

His Highness Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah Prize for Research in Health Care for the Elderly and in Health Promotion
Awardee: Dr Hanadi Khamis Mubarak Al Hamad, Qatar

Qatar’s national lead for healthy ageing at the Ministry of Public Health and senior clinical leader for geriatric, long-term care and rehabilitation services, Dr Hanadi Al Hamad has spearheaded the development of innovative programmes such as geriatric virtual clinics for older people and an urgent day-care unit in Qatar. As a result of her outstanding work, there has been a 20% increase in bed capacity for long-term care; mobile- and home-care services are now fully integrated; a dedicated web page for older people now provides information about healthy ageing; and community rehabilitation and memory clinic services have expanded at the primary care level.

Dr LEE Jong-wook Memorial Prize for Public Health
Award winners: Professor Prakit Vathesatogkit, Thailand and the Severe Hypothermia Treatment Centre, Poland

Professor Prakit Vathesatogkit, Thailand
Executive Secretary of the Action on Smoking and Health (ASH) Foundation since 1986 and member of the National Committee for the Control of Tobacco Use at the Ministry of Public Health of Thailand, Professor Vathesatogkit has devoted his professional life to tobacco control, resulting not only in improved treatment and care protocols for patients, but also in an impressive array of tobacco control measures, including tobacco taxes and restrictions on tobacco advertising and sports sponsorship. Professor Vathesatogkit is a pioneer in advocating for these measures and works across sectors, engaging the general public and developing and empowering networks.

Severe Hypothermia Treatment Centre, Poland
Poland’s Severe Hypothermia Treatment Centre was the first Polish facility dedicated to treating hypothermic patients and one of the world’s first medical centres dedicated to the treatment of accidental hypothermia. Dr Tomasz Darocha, an expert in the field of extracorporeal therapy, and Dr Sylweriusz Kosiński, a specialist in anesthesiology and intensive care, created the Centre. The Severe Hypothermia Treatment Centre has initiated numerous research and development projects to design modern technological solutions used in the diagnosis and treatment of hypothermia. They have done ground-breaking work to train first responders in mountain rescue teams, to save lives.

The large group of doctors and experts working at the Centre combines medical and research work with social work, recognizing the problem of “urban hypothermia” and the social dimension of accidental hypothermia. This includes attention to the need for awareness among those at risk of hypothermia, for example people in situations of homelessness or poverty.

Nelson Mandela Award for Health Promotion
Award winner: Dr Wu Zunyou, China

Chief Epidemiologist at the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention, Dr Zunyou Wu is recognized for his achievements in the field of HIV/AIDS prevention, such as the innovative, evidence-based policies he has built to reach groups most vulnerable to HIV/AIDS. He was a pioneer in designing, piloting and scaling-up outreach programmes among sex workers and established China’s first needle-exchange programme and first large-scale opioid replacement treatment. The impact of these measures has been significant: today, drug users represent 1% of all HIV infections in China, while in 2004, they represented half.

As a result of Dr Wu’s work, HIV testing is now a key prevention tool among all vulnerable groups, with about 300 million tests carried out in China in 2020. Dr Wu’s recommendations on outreach interventions for vulnerable groups have become national policy.