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PAHO and PAHEF Honor Innovative Public Health Figures for Advancing Health in the Americas

leard-about2WASHINGTON, DC (September 17, 2012) – Four distinguished public health leaders and two nongovernmental organizations were honored last night during the fourth annual PAHO/PAHEF Awards for Excellence in Inter-American Public Health. The awards, sponsored by the Pan American Health and Education Foundation (PAHEF) and the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO), are held annually to recognize contributions in leadership, health literature, veterinary public health, voluntary service, bioethics, and universal health care in the Americas.

Last night’s event was attended by ministers of health, ambassadors, U.S. government officials, and representatives of organizations, foundations, advocacy groups, and private industry. The event took place concurrently with the 28th Pan American Sanitary Conference, which brings together ministers of health and other high-level health authorities from throughout the Western Hemisphere to set regional health priorities.

The award winners were:

Dr. Paulo Marchiori Buss, Oswaldo Cruz Foundation, Brazil: Dr. Buss received the 2012 Abraham Horwitz Award for Excellence in Leadership in Inter-American Public Health in recognition of his lifetime commitment to public health, advocating for and addressing the social determinants of health (SDH) and health inequalities. He has played a pivotal role in the creation of an interactive and progressive public health culture in Brazil as well as regionally and globally. His support of efforts to address health inequities in the Americas and his role in supporting technical cooperation among countries on SDH, health promotion, sustainable development, and public health policy have had a profound influence in regional representation and participation in the global public health arena.

Dr. Juan Alberto Lecaros Urzúa, University of Santiago, Chile: Dr. Urzúa received the 2012 Manuel Velasco Suárez Award for Excellence in Bioethics for his proposal A theoretical framework and a methodology for the application of principles of environmental bioethics. The proposal presents a framework and methodology to be used in the current debate in Chile regarding genetically modified organisms (GMOs), focusing on genetically modified (GM) crops and foods. His project seeks to consider the human health, ecological, and socio-economic risks of GMOs. This analysis is potentially useful to other Latin American countries that have not yet defined their national policies on GM crops and foods.

Popular Education in Health Foundation, Chile: The Popular Education in Health Foundation (Fundación Educación Popular en Salud, EPES) received the 2012 Clarence H. Moore Award for Excellence for Voluntary Service. Since 1982, EPES has actively worked to improve the quality and fairness of health care for the poor. Over three decades, the organization has become a leader in the communities it serves, focusing on reproductive and sexual health and rights, erradication of gender violence, HIV/AIDS, tobacco control, nutrition, and community mental health. Today, EPES works with individuals, particularly women, and communities to identify the root causes of illness and fight for improved conditions and services, through education, empowerment, and mobilization.

Dr. Debora Diniz, University of Brasília, Brazil: Lead author Dr. Lovadino de Lima received the 2012 Fred L. Soper Award for Excellence in Public Health Literature for the article, Abortion in Brazil: A household survey using the ballot box technique. The article presents the initial results of the National Abortion Survey (Pesquisa Nacional de Aborto, PNA), a national household survey of urban women in Brazil aged 18 to 39, conducted in 2010. Two techniques were used for the PNA: interviewer-administered questionnaires and self-administered ballot box questionnaires. Based on the results, Dr. Diniz and Dr. Marcelo Medeiros were able to demonstrate that one in five women has had an abortion by the end of her reproductive years, with no significant differences among religious groups, providing important evidence about the prevalence of abortion in Brazil. The article has implications for the design of public health policies, brings attention to the broader political debate on the negative consequences of criminalizing abortion, and stimulates a research agenda. The article also raises awareness on abortion as a public health issue, due to unsafe abortion methods, which often lead to hospitalization.

Other awards presented:

Dr. Aron Nowinski, Uruguay: Dr. Aron Nowinksi, currently professor emeritus at the National Medical School of Uruguay, will receive the 2012 PAHO Award for Administration. The award honors his contributions to the promotion of public health and health services administration, his extensive public health teaching career, his work to systematize and disseminate medical information, his role in catalyzing the development of the major guidelines for the creation of the National Integrated Health System, his leadership in the development of the strategy for the Latin American Network for Health Sciences Information and the Program for Selective Dissemination of Information (both aimed at supporting priority health programs in the Americas), and his contribution to the production of the Latin American Index Medicus.

American Public Health Association (APHA), United States of America: PAHO’s 2012 Special Recognition will be presented to the American Public Health Association (APHA) for its contributions as the primary voice for public health advocacy in the United States. Founded in 1872, the APHA is the world’s oldest and most diverse organization of public health professionals. It strives to build a collective voice for public health, to protect all Americans, their families and their communities from preventable, serious health threats and to ensure that community-based health promotion and disease prevention activities and preventive health services are universally accessible in the United States.

Dr. Mirta Roses Periago, Director of the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO): Special appreciation and recognition were given to Dr. Mirta Roses Periago, who is concluding two terms as PAHO Director. The Global Network for Neglected Tropical Diseases of the Sabin Vaccine Institute recognized Dr. Roses for her work championing health equity, the improvement of health systems, and the elimination of neglected diseases of poverty. The Pan American Health and Education Foundation also recognized Dr. Roses, for supporting its partnerships with PAHO in areas including the elimination of onchocerciasis and control of malaria.   

For more than 30 years, PAHEF has recognized and awarded individuals who have dedicated their lives to advancing public health and health care in the Americas. Additional information regarding the day’s activities, including the 28th Pan American Sanitary Conference of PAHO and the awards event, can be found at:

“This event is a tremendous opportunity to help facilitate a dialogue between various sectors with a common interest in advancing public health in the Western Hemisphere and improving health throughout the Region,” said Dr. Don I. Tharpe, chief executive officer and president of PAHEF.

About PAHEF: The Pan American Health and Education Foundation (PAHEF) is dedicated to improving health in the Americas through health promotion, education, and training. Founded in 1968, PAHEF is a U.S.-based 501(c)(3) public charity that works with the PAHO and other strategic partners in the Americas to mobilize resources and jointly address key health, education, and training priorities. With a deep knowledge of major health concerns anrelationships with key stakeholders in the region, PAHEF builds successful partnerships and projects that advance health in the Americas. For more information regarding PAHEF, please visit:

About PAHO: The Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) was established in 1902 and is the world’s oldest international public health organization. It works with all the countries of the Americas to improve the health and quality of life of the people of the hemisphere and serves as the Regional Office for the Americas of the World Health Organization (WHO). For more information regarding PAHO/WHO, please visit:

About the Awards: The PAHO/PAHEF Awards for Excellence in Inter-American Public Health, established in 1975, honor dedicated professionals who led the way in advancing health conditions in the Americas during the last century. The awards stimulate the growth of the next and rising generation of leaders working together to improve health and health care in the Americas. For each award, a jury of distinguished public health professionals is convened to review the nominations and recommend a winning candidate to the board of directors of PAHEF for approval. 

A Sample of Recent PAHEF Projects in the Region