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Bangladeshi Organization Receives Gates Award for Global Health – Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation

International health award recognizes the Bangladesh Rural Advancement Committee, a pioneer in developing world health

Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation
Patti Pierson
Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation
Phone: +1.206.709.3400

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WASHINGTON -- The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation announced today that the Bangladesh Rural Advancement Committee (BRAC) will receive the $1 million 2004 Gates Award for Global Health, which recognizes extraordinary achievement in improving health in the developing world. BRAC was singled out for its pioneering community-based health programs, which serve 31 million poor Bangladeshis (representing almost a quarter of the country's population) and have influenced other health initiatives around the world.

Administered by the Global Health Council, the award will be presented today in Washington, D.C., at the Council's 31st annual international conference. William H. Gates, Sr., co-chair of the Gates Foundation, will present the award to Fazle Hasan Abed, founder and chairman of BRAC.

"BRAC has done what few others have—they have achieved success on a massive scale, bringing life-saving health programs to millions of the world's poorest people," said Bill Gates, co-founder of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. "They remind us that even the most intractable health problems are solvable, and inspire us to match their success throughout the developing world."

"Health, like social equality and freedom from poverty, is a basic human right, and is at the core of our vision for a just and enlightened Bangladesh," said Abed.  "My colleagues and I are honored to receive this recognition, and we are pleased to announce that the award money will be used to support the new James P. Grant School of Public Health at BRAC University." 

BRAC's community-based health programs currently serve more than 31 million people through a network of health clinics, community nutrition centers, and grassroots health workers.  Their services include women’s reproductive and maternal health programs, HIV/AIDS prevention education, immunization promotion, the treatment of life-threatening childhood diarrhea, TB diagnosis and treatment, and nutrition. BRAC is currently expanding its system of rural primary health clinics throughout the country, and is currently in the process of establishing a school of public health to meet the future challenges of health and development of Bangladesh and the region. 

"Bill and I established the Gates Award to shine a spotlight on the heroes of global health—the individuals and organizations whose pioneering work is transforming health in the developing world," said Melinda Gates, co-founder of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. "Fazle Hasan Abed and his colleagues at BRAC are true heroes, whose tireless commitment has been saving and improving the lives of millions for more than three decades. We are very pleased to recognize them with the Gates Award for Global Health."

Since its founding in 1972 by Abed, a former Shell Oil executive, BRAC has worked to extend innovative health interventions to large numbers of poor Bangladeshis. For example, in the 1980s, BRAC sent workers to almost every household in the country to teach mothers how to prepare oral rehydration solution and prevent thousands of childhood deaths from diarrhea. BRAC also partnered with the Bangladeshi government to organize a national immunization campaign that raised childhood vaccination rates from less than 2% in 1986 to 65% only five years later. These and other successes have provided other countries with important models for scaling up effective health interventions.

In addition to its health-focused programs, many of BRAC's other development activities contribute to health, including support for women's empowerment, efforts to increase food production, basic primary education in rural schools, especially for girls, and micro-credit for women to support small businesses. 

Dr. Nils Daulaire, president and CEO of the Global Health Council, said, "BRAC has set the gold standard for developing communities and improving health through empowering women and their families. When I first visited their health program in 1976, it was already obvious that BRAC was building a superbly managed effort on the foundation of a deep social commitment to service for the poor. Over the years, they have set off a unique chain reaction for good, and tens of millions of women and families have seen improvements in education, health, and the strength of their communities thanks to BRAC's skill and dedication. BRAC is a model for the entire world."

A jury of international public health leaders, including the Global Health Council's board of directors and other experts from around the world, selected BRAC from more than 50 other organizations nominated for the 2004 Gates Award for Global Health. The Gates Award was established by Bill and Melinda Gates in 2000 to draw attention to some of the most inspiring success stories in global health. Previous recipients of the award include the Brazilian National AIDS Program (2003) for pioneering an integrated approach to HIV prevention and treatment; the Rotary Foundation of Rotary International (2002) for its contributions to polio eradication; and the ICDDR,B Center for Health and Population Research in Bangladesh (2001) for its pioneering discovery and development of oral rehydration solution, which saves the lives of 2.5 million children from diarrhea each year.

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