WHO Sasakawa Health Prize Award Ceremony

Geneva, Switzerland

In 1984, the Sasakawa Health Prize was established in response to the WHO’s Health for All initiative. Welcoming its 29th year, the prize which was advocated by Doctor Halfdan Mahler, then director general of WHO, 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 is Professor No-Yai Park. As an experienced nurse, accomplished public official and distinguished professor, she has been contributing to the improvement of primary health care in the Republic of Korea for more than 50 years.

In the 1950s, the public health care system of the Republic of Korea was still at the developmental stage. Sanitary conditions were far from good; medical facilities were inadequate; and there was a shortage of competent healthcare workers. It was then that Professor Park started training nurse practitioners to provide community based primary healthcare to people living in remote villages. Over the years, Professor Park has developed and implemented various training courses to equip community health practitioners with necessary skills to meet the healthcare demands of the time.

Furthermore, Professor Park also led the implementation of community health surveys. Until then, the government did not have accurate statistics on its citizens. This made it difficult to provide appropriate services to its citizens, especially to those living in remote communities. Her survey allowed for more accurate data to be collected from regions that were once difficult to reach. The statistical information made it possible to diagnose local needs and to draw up community health plans according to local priorities.

These and many other initiatives of Professor Park played an important part in transforming the country’s public health system and improving the health of its citizens.

In addition to her domestic initiatives, Professor Park has also been active overseas. Her commitment toward nurturing the next generation of health workers has taken her to neighboring Asian countries, such as Brunei, Laos and Vietnam, where the public health systems are still developing. Health workers in these regions are eager to learn from Professor Park firsthand.

With so many accomplishments at home and abroad, it is no wonder that she is highly respected and revered as the “mother of public health.”

Professor Park has expressed her wish to continue working to further strengthen the public health of her country and to share with the world her knowledge and experience. I hope that the awarding of the Sasakawa Prize will serve to advance this noble mission.

I wish to convey my deep appreciation to the Sasakawa Health Prize Selection Committee for your understanding of what the prize is aiming for and your careful consideration and neutrality in selecting this year’s winner.

And to all of the participants from around the world, who have been the front-runners in the field of health and medicine, let’s work together to promote the Health for All initiative.

Thank you.