WHO honors Thai doctor for work on thalassemia
Thailand’s sterling work in public health and medicine has been recognized once again as the World Health Organization (WHO) honored Dr. Vichai Thienthavorn with its Sasakawa Health Prize for his work on thalassemia, non-communicable diseases, and reducing disparities in national health care.
The WHO will present the award to Dr. Vichai at the 76th World Health Assembly in Geneva, Switzerland this May. The Sasakawa Health Prize was created in 1984 to honor medical service innovations.
According to the Mayo Clinic, thalassemia is an inherited blood disorder that causes your body to have less hemoglobin than normal. Hemoglobin enables red blood cells to carry oxygen. Thalassemia can cause anemia, leaving a person fatigued. While the National Health Service of the United Kingdom said that “although the main health problems associated with thalassemia can often be managed with treatment, it is still a serious health condition that can have a significant impact on a person’s life. Even in mild cases, there is still a risk you could pass on a more serious type to your children.”
The WHO Executive Board wrote of Dr. Vichai that “As the Director-General of the
Department of Health, he developed an innovative policy entitled ‘Choose Partners, Choose to Be Pregnant, and Choose to Deliver,’ to reduce the prevalence of severe thalassemia in Thailand.
Dr. Vichai’s work on other non-communicable diseases is also cited, including developing a basic screening method for diabetes and hypertension that can reduce the rate of medication intake, save travelling and medical service costs of local populations and reduce public health officers’ workload.
The WHO also praised that Dr. Vichai had made significant contributions to reducing disparities in public health since “The Praboromarajchanok Institute, headed by Professor Vichai, has formed partnerships with nearly all village schools to recruit high school students, train them with an accelerated medical curriculum, and settle them back locally. This program has also been developed to address the needs of communities where there is a shortage of staff.”
The organization emphasized that “initiative addresses the challenge of the maldistribution of the health workforce, especially in border and rural areas of the country.”
Photo courtesy of https://thainews.prd.go.th/en/news/detail/TCATG230213114750571