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6 Ramon Magsaysay Awardees Working to Promote Good Health and Well-being

May 10, 2023
10 min read

The Ramon Magsaysay Awardees and Sustainable Development Goals

In 2015, the United Nations designed the Sustainable Development Goals, a collection of 17 interlinked objectives designed to serve as a "shared blueprint for peace and prosperity for people and the planet now and into the future.” But even before the UN formulated the SDGs, the Ramon Magsaysay Awardees, recipients of Asia’s premier prize and highest honor, have been working on these pressing issues of human, environmental and global development.

In this new series, we will list down some notable Ramon Magsaysay Awardees who have addressed and continue to work on humanity’s collective goals.

Sustainable Development Goal 3:
Ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages

The third Sustainable Development Goal focuses on good health and well-being of the human race. Since 2015, there has been significant progress on many fronts in terms of universal health that has reduced child mortality and improved maternal health. Furthermore, we have been successfully tackling HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, malaria and other diseases. But there is still so much more to be done.

SDG 3 aspires to ensure health and well-being for all, including a bold commitment to end the epidemics of AIDS, tuberculosis, malaria and other communicable diseases by 2030. It also aims to achieve universal health coverage, and provide access to safe and effective medicines and vaccines for all. Supporting research and development for vaccines is an essential part of this process as well as expanding access to affordable medicines.

The Ramon Magsaysay Award has identified and celebrated transformative leaders in Asia working on universal and affordable healthcare since 1958. In this third installment of our 17-part series, we highlight individuals and organizations – all of them Ramon Magsaysay Awardees – who have worked and are working on addressing SDG 3. Here are a few of them:

FE DEL MUNDO was a Filipina pediatrician who founded the first pediatric hospital in the Philippines and is known for shaping the modern child healthcare system in the Philippines. Frustrated by the bureaucratic constraints in working for a government hospital, DEL MUNDO desired to establish her own pediatric hospital so she sold her home and most of her personal effects,and obtained a sizable loan in order to finance the construction of her own hospital. The Children's Medical Center, a 107-bed hospital located in Quezon City, Philippines was inaugurated in 1957 as the first pediatric hospital in the country.

DEL MUNDO was noted for her pioneering work on infectious diseases in Philippine communities. In the 1950s, she pursued studies on dengue fever, a common malady in the Philippines, of which little was known at the time. Her clinical observations on dengue, and the findings of research she later undertook on the disease are said to "have led to a fuller understanding of dengue fever as it afflicts the young.”

She received the Ramon Magsaysay Award for “her lifelong dedication and pioneering spirit as a physician extraordinary to needy Filipino children.”

MABELLE RAJANIKANT AROLE, born December 26, 1935 in Jabalpur, Madhya Pradesh, India is a recipient of the Ramon Magsaysay Award for Community Leadership along with her husband, RAJANIKANT AROLE for their Comprehensive Rural Health Project.

The Comprehensive Rural Health Project, Jamkhed (CRHP), has been working among the rural poor and marginalized for over 50 years. Founded in 1970 to bring healthcare to the poorest of the poor, CRHP has become an organization that empowers people and communities to eliminate injustices through integrated efforts in health and development.

CRHP works by mobilizing and building the capacity of communities to achieve access to comprehensive development and freedom from stigma, poverty, and disease. Pioneering a comprehensive approach to community-based primary healthcare (also known as the Jamkhed Model), CRHP has been a leader in public health and development in rural communities in India and around the world.

Even politically displaced individuals need medical care and attention. This is something that CYNTHIA MAUNG, a medical doctor from Myanmar, believes in. Dr Cynthia Maung, herself a displaced person forced to flee her homeland in 1988, has worked tirelessly for 30 years, providing critical healthcare, education and protection to the people of Myanmar.

MAUNG has lived in Mae Sot, on the Thai-Burmese border where she provides medical assistance to refugees. She was offered a dilapidated building with bare dirt floors on the outskirts of Mae Sot. Here, Dr. Cynthia went to work. Her makeshift clinic had few supplies and less money. She improvised by sterilizing her few precious instruments in a rice cooker and solicited medicine and food from Catholic relief workers working in the area.

The Clinic’s facilities and activities continue to grow. Currently, between 250 -400 people on average come and are treated at the clinic each day, and there is a staff of about 400 providing comprehensive health services, health training and child protection services. Total caseload exceeds 95,000 cases annually.

V. SHANTA was an Indian oncologist and the chairperson of Adyar Cancer Institute, Chennai. She is best known for her efforts towards making quality and affordable cancer treatment accessible to all patients in her country. She dedicated herself to the mission of organizing care for cancer patients, study of the disease, research on its prevention and cure, spreading awareness about the disease,and developing specialists and scientists in various subspecialties of oncology.

During her long career of over 60 years, SHANTA was personally concerned about the quality of patient care and believed that a physician's role went beyond treatment and that caring for patients was essential to that role. She developed protocols that went beyond treatment and encompassed holistic care. SHANTA was an advocate of early detection of cancer and the need to change public perception of the disease, especially the extreme fear and hopelessness associated with the disease.

In 2005, she received the Ramon Magsaysay Award for Public Service for “her leadership of Chennai's Cancer Institute (WIA) as a center of excellence and compassion for the study and treatment of cancer in India.”

KRISANA KRAISINTU is a Thai scientist who has been working determinedly to address Thailand's HIV and AIDS crisis. KRISANA successfully formulated the world’s first generic antiretroviral drug to treat HIV generally and reduces the risk of mother-to-child transmission, at one-fourth the cost of the branded product. She and her team then invented GPO-VIR, a “cocktail” drug that is eighteen times cheaper than the multiple-pill regimen taken by AIDS patients.

Making health affordable for the poor, says KRISANA, is a matter of social justice. “That is why I want to teach people to make medicines, so they can help themselves,” she shared.

She received the Ramon Magsaysay Award in 2009 for “placing pharmaceutical rigor at the service of patients through her untiring and fearless dedication to producing much-needed generic drugs in Thailand and elsewhere in the world.”

FIRDAUSI QADRI is a Bangladeshi scientist who has been instrumental in discovering vaccines that have saved millions of lives. Her most challenging engagements came in the fight against cholera and typhoid, major diseases in Bangladesh and Asian and African countries. She had a key role in the development of a more affordable oral cholera vaccine (OCV) and the typhoid conjugate vaccine (ViTCV) for adults, children, and even infants as young as nine months.

In 2020, she helped facilitate the OCV vaccination of 1.2 million people in six high-risk districts of Dhaka. Not surprisingly, in the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic, Dr. QADRI was involved in vaccine trials and Covid-19 testing and research in Bangladesh.

She received the Ramon Magsaysay Award for “her passion and life-long devotion to the scientific profession; her vision of building the human and physical infrastructure that will benefit the coming generation of Bangladeshi scientists, women scientists in particular, and her untiring contributions to vaccine development, advanced biotechnological therapeutics and critical research that has been saving millions of precious lives.”