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20 Sep 2011

Novartis Foundation president receives UN award

Novartis Foundation President and Managing Director Klaus M. Leisinger has been awarded the first-ever Outstanding Contribution to Global Health Award. Dr. Leisinger was recognized for his pioneering work in the area of digital health as part of the South-South Awards on 19 September at the Waldorf Astoria Hotel in New York.

"I'm surprised and extremely honored to be recognized, as it is very exceptional for a representative from the private sector to receive an award of this kind," Professor Klaus M. Leisinger said Monday. The head of the Novartis Foundation for Sustainable Development (NFSD) received the 2011 South-South Award for his efforts to accelerate the health-related Millennium Development Goals, which were set by United Nations member states and international organizations to achieve by 2015. These goals include improving overall global health by eradicating extreme poverty, reducing childhood mortality and fighting disease epidemics. 

"I would like to congratulate Klaus on receiving the prestigious South-South Award. We have been collaborating closely as co-chairs of the Digital Health Initiative, and I have developed a great appreciation and admiration for his constructive approach to problem-solving along with his remarkable ability to bring together different stakeholders in order to ensure the achievement of his objectives. As head of the Novartis Foundation, he has made many significant contributions to health and development, the area of digital health being only one example," said Dr Hamadoun Touré, Secretary-General of the International Telecommunication Union, who presented the award to Klaus Leisinger.

"As a crucial member of the Broadband Commission for Digital Development and the Commission for Information and Accountability for Women's and Children's Health, Dr. Leisinger has facilitated landmark cooperation between the public and private sectors at the UN," said Denis Gilhooly, the Principal Advisor for the UN Partnership Office. "In the coming year, we believe that this work, as well as his leadership with the Global Strategy for Women & Children's Health, will result in significant strides for global health," Gilhooly said.

Also honored in the category of Outstanding Contribution to Global Health were Professor Jeffey Sachs, Director of the Earth Institute at Columbia University and Dr Seth Berkley, CEO of GAVI Alliance. For their extraordinary work to advance health and development in Africa through the use of technology, Jakaya Kikwete, President of the United Republic of Tanzania, and Paul Kagame, President of the Republic of Rwanda, among other heads of states received an Award in the category Global Health, Technology and Development.

Awardees were recognized based on their policy, program initiatives, and projects that made a transformative difference in global health through their level of innovation, large-scale impact, user-friendliness and scalability.

The Novartis Foundation has pioneered several projects in the area of digital health. Together with the World Health Organization (WHO), the foundation developed ICATT, an innovative software tool that helps to globally scale up the training of health personnel who work with childhood diseases. In an effort to strengthen human resources in rural areas, the foundation has also collaborated with the Millennium Villages Project to pave the way for telemedicine in Ghana. Finally, as part of the ACCESS project in Tanzania, the foundation developed a mobile phone-based application to assess the quality of services in health facilities.

The South-South Awards were organized by the UN Economic Commission for Africa, South-South News, the International Telecommunication Union and the Permanent Mission of Antigua and Barbuda to The United Nations. The awards honor governments, organizations and individuals who have played key roles in the international progression of health-related Millennium Development Goals. This year's award theme is "Digital Health for Digital Development," to credit the milestone efforts made in improving child mortality and maternal health conditions around the world.

Visit the South-South Awards website.

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