WHO Sasakawa Health Prize Award Ceremony

Geneva, Switzerland

This is the 28th year of the Sasakawa Health Prize which was established in response to the WHO’s Health for All initiative.

This prize recognizes ongoing unique and innovative work in primary health care. By awarding those who have made an outstanding contribution to health development, we hope to encourage further advancement in this field.

This year’s winner the Syamsi Dhuha Foundation is being recognized for their innovative activities and achievements on improving the quality of life of individuals who are suffering from lupus disease and low vision.

Ms. Dian Syarief, the chairperson of SDF was diagnosed with lupus in 1999. Although defeating the disease, it left her with impaired vision. After overcoming much difficulty and hardship, she established SDF in 2003 to help those who are suffering from the same problems as she did.

Lupus has no known cause. For that reason, there is great need for medical research. SDF has been offering research as well as training programmes for medical professionals. In addition, they have been providing guidance to people with poor vision and educating their families and communities about what kind of support do people with low vision need. The Annual World Sight Day is an initiative started by the foundation. Its objective is to increase public awareness. The organization is helping people to lead a fulfilling life in spite of their illness or loss of certain body functions.

At The Nippon Foundation, we have been working to improve the quality of life of people with diseases and disabilities. Our activities include providing access to information for people with visual impairment through the use of ICT such as electronic audio books, compiling sign language dictionaries for the deaf and offering prosthetic and orthotics to those who have lost their arms or legs. In addition, we have been active in improving the educational and work environments of people with disabilities to ensure their greater participation to society. When I visit people who have been supported by our programs, they are excited to tell me how they have gained the ability to walk or read books on their own. I am always amazed to hear how much their lives have changed. These encouraging stories have been my motivation to continue our initiatives.

SDF has been making steady progress in reaching out to those who have been suffering from lupus and poor vision. What sets them apart are their innovative approach toward medical research, their patient-centered perspective and their effective method to increase social awareness by gaining support from various partners. I am convinced that these initiatives will improve the quality of life of those who suffer from this disease. I hope that the awarding of the Sasakawa Prize will serve to drive this noble challenge forward.

To all of the participants from around the world, who have been the front runners in the field of medicine, let us work together toward achieving the Health for All initiative and a world where quality of life is ensured for everyone regardless of their ill health or disabilities.

I thank you all.