38th WHO Sasakawa Health Prize Goes to Dr. Ruamviboonsuk of Thailand [2022/06/25]
The 38th WHO Sasakawa Health Prize award ceremony in Geneva on May 27, 2022. From left: Mr. Ahmed Robleh Abdilleh, Health Minister of Djibouti and president of the 75th World Health Assembly; Dr. Paisan Ruamviboonsuk of Thailand, recipient of the award; WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus; and the author.
On the last leg of my two-week, four-nation tour which took me to Malaysia, East Timor, Poland and Switzerland, I attended a ceremony in Geneva on May 27 to present the 38th WHO Sasakawa Health Prize to Dr. Paisan Ruamviboonsuk of Thailand for his tireless work to combat blindness among diabetics.
The prize was established by my late father, Ryoichi Sasakawa, in 1984 to recognize individuals and organizations engaging in innovative efforts to improve people’s health and, at the same time, establishing greater equity in health through the promotion of primary health care.
This year’s award ceremony was held face-to-face for the first time in three years following virtual events during the past two years due to the COVID-19 pandemic. It took place at the historic Palais des Nations, which houses the United Nations Office at Geneva, in the presence of WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus and Mr. Ahmed Robleh Abdilleh, Health Minister of Djibouti and president of the 75th World Health Assembly, the WHO’s decision-making body, as well as health ministers and other representatives of member states and international organizations.
In honoring Dr. Ruamviboonsuk with the prize, I said: “The grading method he established for screening and detecting blindness, as well as his training of health care professionals, saved many from blindness in Thailand with a profound impact on health enhancement in the country.”
“I would like to express my respect to Dr. Ruamviboonsuk for going as far as improving Thailand’s health system through the practice of primary health care.”
I told the ceremony participants that I myself, as WHO Goodwill Ambassador for Leprosy Elimination, have visited 122 countries over the years in my global fight against leprosy, also known as Hansen’s disease. Even during the COVID-19 pandemic, ministers of health and others around the world have joined me in an awareness campaign called “Don’t forget leprosy” to help ensure that leprosy is not overlooked.
As one also working towards our shared goal of “health for all,” I again congratulated Dr. Ruamviboonsuk and wished him every success for the future.
Speaking at the 38th WHO Sasakawa Health Prize award ceremony in Geneva on May 27, 2022.
The text of my speech at the 38th WHO Sasakawa Health Prize award ceremony can be seen here.