Berkeley - From rural villagers who receive health care in Bangladesh to U.S. residents who now seek medical care in desegregated hospitals, millions of people have benefited from the contributions made by the 2002 Public Health Heroes being honored by the University of California, Berkeley, School of Public Health.
The Public Health Heroes award will be presented Friday (March 15) at an Oakland celebration. Established in 1996, the annual awards recognize individuals and organizations for their outstanding achievements in the advancement of public health and health care.
The heroes to be honored this year are:
* Zafrullah Chowdhury, for bringing health care to the underserved rural population in Bangladesh. Using his experience from setting up the first field hospital for freedom fighters and refugees in the War of Liberation for Bangladesh, Chowdhury founded the non-governmental organization Gonoshasthaya Kendra, or the People's Health Center, in 1972 to provide primary health care services for rural communities. The organization has since expanded to include agricultural cooperatives, women's vocational training centers and family planning services.
* Philip R. Lee, MD, for his role in affecting U.S. health policy. In the 1960s, Lee served as director of Health Services in the state department's Agency for International Development, and then as deputy assistant secretary to the Department of Health, Education and Welfare. Lee stood out in his position as one of the few physicians who supported Medicare. He also worked to apply the Civil Rights Act to desegregate hospitals and helped establish the National Center for Health Services Research. After spending 24 years at UCSF, he went back to Washington, D.C., in 1993 to serve a four-year term in the Clinton Administration as assistant secretary for Health and Human Services.
* Rob Reiner, for shining the spotlight on a child's early developmental years. Reiner, a successful movie director and actor, co-founded the I Am Your Child Foundation. In 1998, he led the effort to pass Proposition 10 in California, the innovative initiative that levied a 50-cent tax on cigarettes to fund early childhood development programs for the state's youngest children. Reiner chairs the California Children and Families Commission, which oversees the Proposition 10 funds, and co-chairs the Governor's Task Force on School Readiness with Education Secretary Kerri Mazzoni.
* On Lok, a San Francisco-based non-profit organization established in 1971, for providing the elderly with quality, affordable care services. The organization, which means "place of peace and happiness" in Cantonese, was one of the country's first day health centers for the elderly and provides an alternative to nursing homes. On Lok's success served as a model for the Program of All-inclusive Care for the Elderly (PACE), a Medicare program signed into law in 1997 to make it available in all 50 states. Since then, more than 60 organizations in 27 states are in different stages of replicating the On Lok model through the PACE program.
The Public Health Heroes are chosen by members of the School of Public Health's Advisory Council, a group made up of community, industry and faculty leaders. The panel selects three individuals and one organization to honor each year from a list of nominees provided by School of Public Health faculty, panel members and previous award recipients.
"It is a privilege to be adding this year's four honorees to the school's very distinguished list of Public Health Heroes," said Edward E. Penhoet, dean of the School of Public Health. He added that, similar to all awardees selected since 1996, this year's group was exemplified not only for its efforts to improve the health of the human population, but also for the diversity of their activities in achieving this goal.
The awards serve to highlight the increasingly complex challenges - from antibiotic resistance to the threat of bioterrorism to an aging baby boomer population - faced by public health workers today. At the same time, many parts of the world are still struggling to get access to basic health necessities, such as clean water, nutritious food and vaccinations.
The UC Berkeley School of Public Health is poised to help lead the efforts to tackle these challenges through the Health Sciences Initiative, an innovative multi-disciplinary program that cultivates research advances that benefit human health.
Michael Hayes at the School of Public Health at (510) 642-9572.