WHO Sasakawa Health Prize Award Ceremony

Geneva, Switzerland

Let me begin by congratulating the Childbirth with Dignity Foundation for winning the 31st Sasakawa Health Prize. I would also like 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.

The Sasakawa Health Prize was established in 1984. This was a time when the WHO was pushing forward the “Health for All Initiative” under the Declaration of Alma-Ata. Against this backdrop, The Nippon Foundation established the Sasakawa Health Prize. It was our wish to recognize individuals and organizations who have made a positive impact on people’s lives or an outstanding contribution to the field of primary health care. The prize also aimed to encourage the further progress of their activities.

The Childbirth with Dignity Foundation has been engaging in actions at the grassroots level that meet the WHO’s key elements in primary health care for a “better health for all”. Their work includes making information on hospitals accessible to pregnant women so that they are able to make more informed decisions; helping medical institutions reform their service delivery toward pregnant and nursing women; helping women to defend their rights during pregnancy and child-rearing by offering legal consultation; and raising public awareness for greater respect toward the rights of women in places such as hospitals and the workplace.

All of this will be explained in detail shortly after by the foundation, but as you can see, their grassroots activities are not just improving the environment for pregnant and nursing women but also empowering them to take ownership of their issues. We, The Nippon Foundation are proud and grateful to have been able to recognize these and other important grassroots initiatives through the Sasakawa Health Prize for over 30 years.

Under the strong leadership of Director-General Dr. Margaret Chan, WHO is committed to meeting the challenges of global health with the active involvement and collaboration of stakeholders from all layers of society.

One of the important stakeholders in this global initiative are people who are working day in and day out at the grassroots level to help their communities achieve better health. As WHO Goodwill Ambassador for Leprosy Elimination, I have seen with my own eyes, the positive changes that our local NGO partners have been making to the lives of leprosy patients and their families who are living in remote villages and urban slums around the world. I strongly believe that nurturing such activities will help speed up our path to achieve a better health for all.

So this is my request to all of the delegates here who are representing your country’s health ministries. Please, seek out individuals and organizations that are making a difference in their communities through primary health care and give them encouragement.

We, The Nippon Foundation are committed to maintaining a place to publicly recognize these unsung heroes and their amazing work. It will be the inspiration to push the rest of the world to action.

Finally, I would like to once again congratulate the Childbirth with Dignity Foundation and wish them continued success on their important endeavor.

Thank you.