Dr. Maria Fátima de Sousa

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On September 27, 2010, the Pan American Health and Education Foundation (PAHEF) and the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) presented the new Sérgio Arouca Award for Excellence in Universal Health Care to Dr. Maria Fátima de Sousa.

Dr. Sousa was honored for her role in the creation of Brazil's Basic Health Care Information System, among many other contributions toward improving public health in her country.

The award was presented at a special event in Washington, DC, by Dr. Benjamin Caballero, chair of the Pan American Health and Education Foundation (PAHEF) board of directors, and Dr. Mirta Roses Periago, director of the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO).

Dr. Sousa has played a pivotal role in advancing health care in Brazil. From 1991 to 2001, she was national manager of the Community Health Agents Program (PACS), an agency that serves more than 116 million people, 61 percent of Brazil's total population. She supported the creation and implementation of the Network for Permanent Training, Qualification, and Education Centers for Family Health Professionals. Between 2001 and 2003, Dr. Sousa served as an advisor in implementing the Family Heath Strategy in the municipality of São Paulo, a strategy she helped formulate with the goal of making health care more accessible to vulnerable populations. Currently, she is shaping the next generation of Brazilian public health practitioners as an associate professor at the University of Brasília.

Dr. Sousa received US$10,000, a certificate of merit, and a statue trophy.

Dr. Sousa explained the role of the agencies' in bridging Brazil's health care gap, "The Family Health Strategy and the Program for Community Health Agents tread paths to overcoming inequalities in access to universal health care in Brazil."

"Dr. Sousa is an inspiration for public health professionals everywhere. Her exceptional career demonstrates how one person can dramatically affect a nation's health system to better meet the people's health needs—especially those in underserved populations," said Edward L. Kadunc, president of PAHEF.

The Sérgio Arouca Award for Excellence in Universal Health Care was created in 2010 by the Secretary of Health of Brazil and PAHEF, in cooperation with PAHO. The award honors the outstanding legacy of Dr. Sérgio Arouca, a physician, researcher, and professor at Brazil's National School of Public Health who also served as Secretary of Health of Rio de Janeiro and Secretary of Social Participation in Brazil's federal Ministry of Health.

The award recognizes the importance of universal health care and its profound impact on the peoples of the Americas. By influencing change, creating and strengthening health programs, and tirelessly championing the importance of universal health care, awardees bring lasting improvements to their nation's health systems. The award is one of six in the Awards for Excellence in Inter-American Public Health Program.

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