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WHO public health awards for Western Pacific Region

Public health champions from the World Health Organization (WHO) Western Pacific Region were recognised at the 71st World Health Assembly in Geneva, Switzerland.

01 Jun 2018

Public health champions from the World Health Organization (WHO) Western Pacific Region were recognised at the 71st World Health Assembly in Geneva, Switzerland.

Dr Nazni Wasi Ahmad from Malaysia received honours for her innovative research using insects to treat people with diabetes, and the Korea Institute of Drug Safety and Risk Management (KIDS) for contributions to drug safety in the country.

“Dr Nazni Wasi Ahmad and the Korea Institute of Drug Safety and Risk Management have made outstanding contributions to public health in our Region,” said Dr Shin Young-soo, WHO Regional Director for the Western Pacific.

“The recognition they are receiving today is a strong affirmation of the significance of that work, which positively impacts the lives of many people in Malaysia, the Republic of Korea and beyond.”

Dr Ahmad was awarded the Dr LEE Jong-wook Memorial Prize for Public Health for her research on the therapeutic use of maggots (fly larvae) to clear and expedite the healing of wounds and foot ulcers caused by diabetes. The maggots remove dead tissue and secrete antimicrobial substances that fight infection and promote healing.

The number of people with diabetes is growing around the world, and diabetic foot ulcers are a serious but relatively common complication. If these wounds are not properly treated and become infected, especially with antibiotic-resistant bacteria, it could result in needing to amputate the affected limb.

In Malaysia, about six per cent of patients attending diabetic outpatient facilities develop foot ulcers, and foot complications account for 12 per cent of all diabetes hospital admissions.

Dr Ahmad’s method is effective, affordable, simple and available at any time and in any healthcare setting, including small local clinics, said the WHO.

When accepting the award, Dr Ahmad said: “Today, our therapy is being practised in health clinics in most districts in Malaysia, including in hard-to-reach areas. It is easy to access and affordable for the people, especially socially and geographically disadvantaged groups.

“We brought our research findings from the laboratory to the bedside, and now we’re preventing limb amputation in diabetic patients in health clinics. This is in line with achieving the ultimate goal of primary health care as advocated by WHO—reducing exclusion and social disparities in health and organizing health services around people’s needs and expectations.”

KIDS received the 2018 United Arab Emirates Health Foundation Prize for its outstanding contribution to health development. The Institute works to improve health in the Republic of Korea by working on prevention and recognition of drug safety-related issues, supporting evidence-based decisions on drug safety, disseminating safety information, and increasing public awareness.

The country’s pharmacovigilance system to monitor the effects of medical drugs consists of 27 regional centres. In this decentralised system, KIDS functions as the focal point, gathering and reporting data from these centres.

The data are used to provide the Ministry of Food and Drug Safety with statistics, safety information and reports of all adverse events. The reporting system further feeds into Vigibase, the global database managed by the WHO Programme for International Drug Monitoring.

“Nationwide, KIDS operates 27 regional pharmacovigilance centres, promoting the reporting of adverse drug reaction cases and incorporating the data into the WHO international pharmacovigilance programme. We take various safety measures proactively and are keen to share with WHO and other countries our experience and achievements in drug safety management,” said Dr Soo Youn Chung of KIDS. 

Each year, at the World Health Assembly held in Geneva, prizes are given to recognise expertise and accomplishments in public health.

The prizes have been established either in the name of eminent health professionals and international figures or by prominent foundations committed to supporting international and global public health. Nominations are submitted by national health administrations and former prize recipients and reviewed by specialized selection panels of each of the foundations awarding a prize. The WHO Executive Board, in its January session, designates the winners based on recommendations made by the selection panels.

The Dr Lee Jong-wook Memorial Prize for Public Health is given to an individual whose work has gone far beyond the performance of duties normally expected of an official of a government or intergovernmental institution.

The United Arab Emirates Health Foundation Prize is awarded to a person, institution or nongovernmental organization that has made an outstanding contribution to health development.

Other prizes presented at the World Health Assembly this year were: the Ihsan Doğramacı Family Health Foundation Prize to Professor Vinod Kumar Paul (India); the Sasakawa Health Prize to the Fundación Pro Unidad de Cuidado Paliativo (Pro Palliative Care Unit Foundation) (Costa Rica); and His Highness Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah Prize for Research in Health Care for the Elderly and in Health Promotion to Association El Badr, Association d’aides aux malades atteints de cancer (El Badr Association, Cancer Patient Association) (Algeria).



Published: 01 Jun 2018