Health Systems Heroes Awards Honor Best in Global Health

Left to right: Health Systems Hero Annette Widmann-Mauz, Parliamentary State Secretary, Germany; Presenter Dr. Marie-Paule Kieny, Assistant Director General, Health Systems and Innovation, WHO; Health Systems Hero Mr. Yasuhisa Shiozaki, Minister of Health, Labor, and Welfare, Japan; and Health Systems Hero Michael Myers, Managing Director, The Rockefeller Foundation, at "A Toast to Health Systems Heroes." (Photo Credit: David Neff)

MSH recognized 10 leading public health professionals for their unique contributions to strengthening health systems worldwide. The honorees and presenters included people working at all levels of the health system—from governments, to the private sector, community health workers and civil society—who are working to save lives and improve the health of some of the world's most vulnerable populations. The event, hosted by international journalist and television host Femi Oke, was held September 20 at Manhattan's Riverpark Restaurant, in conjunction with the 71st United Nations General Assembly. Event partners included IHP+ for UHC2030, The Partnership for Maternal, Newborn & Child Health (PMNCH), and the No More Epidemics campaign.

"A strong health system relies on many interconnected parts: people, medicines, information, facilities, well-trained personnel, and committed partners and funders who are providing maternal and child health, disease prevention and eradication, training and leadership, advocacy, and resources," said Dr. Jonathan D. Quick, MSH president and CEO. "Tonight we celebrate and honor the lifesaving work of inspiring global health heroes working all across the globe, who are achieving remarkable improvements in health for people and communities."

The 2016 Health Systems Heroes awards lauded innovators and visionaries, such as Dr. Bernice Dahn, a world renowned minister of health who faced down one of the greatest scourges of the 21st Century: the Ebola epidemic in Liberia; Elizabeth Shekalaghe of Tanzania's Pharmacy Council, a woman whose work is making it possible for the people of her country to get the right medication to people at the right time; Susana Chavez of Peru, a civil society advocate striving to ensure equitable access to sexual and reproductive health services for disadvantaged people, particularly youth and LGBT; Rhudnie Angrand, a nurse whose work helped achieve near universal immunization coverage among children in her state in northeastern Haiti; and many more leaders and partners in the public and private sectors who are bringing forward ideas and action to expand health coverage, provide health services, and prevent epidemics.

Below is the complete list of presenters and honorees, by award category: 

  • Global Advocacy for Universal Health Coverage and Global Health Security
    Mr. Yasuhisa Shiozaki, Minister of Health, Labor, and Welfare, Japan

Yasuhisa Shiozaki (L) and Marie-Paule Kieny (R)

During his acceptance speech, Mr. Shiozaki said, "as a part of the G-7 meetings last week, we asked a special group of countries to come talk to us about ageing. We had an extensive and rich discussion with them, and we found out that universal health coverage (UHC) is the foundation for ageing societies for us all. The truth of the matter is, universal coverage is something you have to achieve to overcome demographic issues, too. I'm very pleased and honored to be one of the heroes."

The award was presented by Dr. Marie-Paule Kieny, assistant director-general, health systems and innovation at the World Health Organization. In presenting the award, Dr. Kieny called the government of Japan “inspirational” for pushing UHC and health systems reform.

  • Global Coordination for Health Systems Strengthening
    Annette Widmann-Mauz, Parliamentary State Secretary, Germany

Annette Widmann-Mauz (R) and Jonathan Quick (L)

Accepting the award, Ms Widmann-Mauz said, "the Roadmap for Healthy Systems, Healthy Lives aims to strengthen health systems and contribute to UHC in all of our countries with a special focus on low- and middle-income countries. We're collaborating with more than 200 partner organizations to ensure that future activities are aligned and match existing initiatives. We also allow for a joint understanding and a concise set of recommendations to improve the way global health agencies support partner countries in strengthening their health systems."

Presenting the award, Dr. Kieny said, "here's another political leader who has pushed UHC on the G-7. She continues to promote universal health coverage and, therefore, also health systems strengthening at the highest level of government."

  • Ministerial Leadership in Health Systems
    Dr. Bernice T. Dahn, Minister of Health of Liberia

Bernice Dahn (L) and Ariel Pablos-Mendez (R)

In her acceptance speech, Dr. Dahn spoke extensively about her plans to restructure the country's health system after Ebola. She made an impassioned case for the need for greater financing for the health system, saying, "our national accounts are showing that we have about 400 million dollars in country at the moment ... How do we restructure for the funding to actually support our plan? I would like to throw that out there as a challenge."

Presenting the award, Dr. Ariel Pablos-Mendez, assistant administrator for global health, child and maternal survival coordinator at USAID, said, "many of you already know Dr. Dahn and know that she is brilliant. But also a woman of character. ... The plan to restructure the health system of Liberia is the best thing I have seen in terms of thinking through the pyramid of health workers, health information systems, and yes, it is never too early to begin to organize the financing for universal health coverage in the country."

  • Global Health Security Agenda
    Outi Kuivasniemi, Deputy to Director of International Affairs, Ministry of Social Affairs and Health, Finland

Outi Kuivasniemi (L) and Frank Smith (R)

In her remarks, Ms. Kuivaseniemi said, "we've pushed for the collaboration of the different sectors that are involved in [global health security]. We want to make sure that it's on the government's agenda, but also that we work with the partners that we have in global health security, including the NGOs, the multilateral organizations, the private sector, and the foundations. Making "one health" a reality is important to us."

Presenting the award, Dr. Frank Smith, campaign director of No More Epidemics, said, "she has played a key role in ensuring that the global health security agenda is a multi-stakeholder agenda that includes civil society partners, partners from the private sector and others, as well as the government to ensure that the world becomes better protected against the scourge of infectious diseases."

  • Epidemic Preparedness
    Dr. Nadeem Anwar, Regional Manager, Social Performance; Policy, Government, and Public Affairs Department, Chevron Africa and Latin America Exploration and Production Company

Nadeem Anwar (R) and Nancy Aossey (L)

Dr. Anwar dedicated the award to the frontline health workers who died during the Ebola outbreak in Liberia, stating, "When the Ebola outbreak happened, in Liberia alone, 5,000 people died and twice or thrice that [number of] people were infected. Among them—let's not forget—some 200 health workers died in the line of duty ... they are the ones who are the real heroes. To us, this is not an award, it's a commemoration of their sacrifices."

The award was presented by Nancy Aossey, president and CEO of the International Medical Corps (IMC), who spoke about IMC's response to the Ebola outbreak in West Africa, Nancy Aossey said, "Dr. Anwar led the Chevron response. They provided half a million dollars, which allowed us the flexibility to provide the personal protection equipment that we needed to help open up a lab in Liberia. They basically said, 'we're there with you on the frontlines. We want to do whatever it takes to save lives.' And so Dr. Anwar and Chevron will always be heroes in our minds."

  • Resilient Health Systems
    Michael Myers, Managing Director, The Rockefeller Foundation

Michael Myers (L) and Tim Evans (R)

Mr. Myers accepted the award saying, "We have an opportunity here today, not only to meet the health needs of 7.5 billion people on our planet, but to alleviate poverty, to improve our environment, to clean water, and with health at the center of that push. So it is with great pride to be among people who are part of this movement—this global movement to improve the lives of people on our planet in myriad ways."

Presenting the award, Dr. Tim Evans, senior director of health, nutrition and population at the World Bank Group, said, "this is a person who engineered a UN Day for Universal Health Coverage, such that now we can look on December 12 each year and celebrate where are and where we need to go on UHC. We are enormously grateful for all The Rockefeller Foundation has done to support the health systems agenda."

  • Private Sector and Strengthening Pharmaceutical Systems
    Jiqing Madeleine-Wang, Head of Portfolio & Launch, The Novartis Access Program

Jiqing Madeleine-Wang (L) and Patricia Nicklin (R)

Ms. Madeleine-Wang accepted the award by saying, "I am very delighted because I recognize that regardless of the industry—private or public sector—we have the same goals: to strengthen the healthcare system and make it sustainable."

Presenting the award, Patricia Nicklin, vice president, global partnerships, marketing & communications at MSH, said, "there are 15 non-communicable disease drugs that Novartis has produced and will provide at an affordable cost to address cardiovascular disease, diabetes, breast cancer and respiratory illnesses. The program [Novartis Access] was launched first in Kenya and will go to five countries and then worldwide. We are pleased at MSH to partner with Novartis, along with Kemsa and MEDS and many others in Kenya." 

  • Community Access to Health Systems
    Elizabeth Shekalaghe, Registrar, Pharmacy Council of Tanzania

Elizabeth Shekalaghe (L) and Douglas Keene (R)

Accepting the award, Ms. Shekalaghe thanked MSH for "making Tanzania a leader in the access to medicines program. The ADDO program has been considered as a platform for other public health interventions to come in Tanzania, with a population of 47 million and 80 percent living in rural areas. I accept this award but it belongs to all of us."

Dr. Douglas Keene, vice president, pharmaceuticals and health technologies at MSH presented the award saying, "We [MSH and the Tanzanian government] were able to co-create and develop something that is known now as the Accredited Drug Dispensing Outlets (ADDO) program in Tanzania. And that program has evolved to where now it has more than 10,000 outlets that are accredited and recognized by the government to dispense high-quality essential medicines to people who prior had limited access."

  • Civil Society Advocacy for Health Systems
    Susana Chavez, Founder and Executive Director of Promsex, Peru

Susana Chavez (L) and Luis Mora (R)

Ms. Chavez accepted the award with the following words, "I would like to accept this recognition not only on my behalf, but on behalf of the people—especially family health providers—who are doing their best to make the low- and middle-income countries less unfair. To those who are working to give young girls more opportunities for development and to let women freely decide the amount of children they want to have." She announced that two weeks ago, through a lawsuit in Peru, access to emergency contraception was granted to poor people. "For us, it's an issue of justice. And this changed."

Presenting the award, Luis Mora, chief gender, human rights and culture branch at the United Nations Population Fund, said, "it's not just a pleasure, it's an honor to introduce Susana Chavez. She has been at the forefront of the struggle for sexual and reproductive rights in Latin America. She represents the voice of many people, of many countries, of many fighters, from a unique region of the world that I love."

  • Innovative Primary Care
    Marie Rhudnie Angrand, a nurse in the Northeast department of Haiti

Rhudnie Angrand (L) and Emanuele Capobianco (R)

Speaking through a translator, Ms. Angrand talked about her efforts to train community health workers and immunize children. "Today, I report that in my department almost all children were immunized for all diseases under five. They were also able to cut the cholera disease in that region. ... challenges still remain for Haiti: how do we get all children fully immunized and how do we deal with malnutrition," she said. "I am passionate about my work, and I am committed to being an agent of change."

Presenting the award, Dr. Emanuele Capobianco, deputy executive director at the Partnership for Maternal, Newborn and Child Health (PMNCH), also a cosponsor of the event, said, "I want to say two things about community health workers. One is that we need more of them. But we need them to be well-trained, well-paid and integrated into the health systems, which is not happening in many countries. Rhudnie put her attention on communities and community health workers. ... She is a nurse working against cholera but also supporting critical interventions like immunizations and nutrition."

For high-resolution photographs, contact Jordan Coriza: jcoriza@msh.org
Photo Credit: David Neff

About MSH
Management Sciences for Health (MSH) saves lives and improves health by ensuring equitable access to health care for people most in need. For more than 40 years in over 150 countries, MSH has partnered with governments and communities to build strong, locally-led health systems that improve reproductive, maternal and child health, fight infectious disease, and control chronic illness. There are 12 million preventable deaths of the poorest and most vulnerable. MSH builds the right "systems for health" to help save millions of lives. MSH builds strong health systems that deliver everything it takes—people, money, medicine, information, and facilities—to prevent disease, treat illness, and empower people to lead healthier lives. For further information, visit http://www.msh.org.

About No More Epidemics
No More Epidemics is a five-year global campaign to encourage governments and key stakeholders to better prevent, prepare, and respond to infectious disease epidemics. Established in 2015 by Management Sciences for Health, Save the Children, International Medical Corps, and AFENET, the campaign aims to influence governments and multilateral institutions to develop national preparedness plans. The No More Epidemics campaign mobilizes civil society and the private sector to call for community protection and mitigation activities, compliance with the International Health Regulations, and increased funding for epidemic preparedness, prevention, and response. More information at http://nomoreepidemics.org/.

About The Partnership for Maternal, Newborn & Child Health
The Partnership for Maternal, Newborn and Child Health is an alliance of over 740 members working together for a world where all women, newborns, children and adolescents not only are healthy, but thrive. The Partnership provides a platform for organizations to align objectives, strategies and resources, and agree on interventions to improve maternal, newborn, child and adolescent health. The goal of the Partnership is to empower every woman, child, and adolescent in every setting to realise their rights to physical and mental health and wellbeing, have social and economic opportunities, and be able to participate fully in shaping prosperous and sustainable societies. For more information, visit: http://www.who.int/pmnch/en/.

About The International Health Partnership for UHC2030
The International Health Partnership for UHC 2030 is a convening platform for all health systems related partnerships, networks, and other initiatives promoting coordination at global and country level and mutually reinforcing action. The transformation of IHP+ into the International Health Partnership for UHC 2030 responds to the demand and opportunities for better coordination in efforts to strengthen health systems for all of the health SDG targets. It reflects the importance of multi-stakeholder collaboration for universal health coverage, offering a convening platform for a broader range of partners. It acknowledges the political nature of UHC reforms and the need to focus on who benefits and who is left behind on pathways to achieve UHC. It carries forward the unfinished mandate of the IHP+ to improve effective development cooperation. For more information, visit: http://www.internationalhealthpartnership.net/en/

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