The two winners of the 2012 Prince Mahidol Award are to receive their prize at the presentation ceremony at the Chakri Throne Hall Wednesday.
This year’s Prince Mahidol Award recipients at Siriraj Hospital yesterday. They are Sir Michael David Rawlins, centre, chairman of the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence, and Dr Uche Veronica Amazigo, right, former director of the World Health Organisation’s African Programme for Onchocerciasis Control. Sir Michael won the award in the field of medicine and Dr Uche in the field of public health. TAWATCHAI KEMGUMNERD
Her Royal Highness Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn will preside over the ceremony.
The winner in the field of public health is Dr Uche Veronica Amazigo, former director of the World Health Organisation's African Programme for Onchocerciasis Control (Apoc).
Onchocerciasis, or river blindness, is a major cause of blindness and skin disease in many African countries.
Sir Michael David Rawlins, chairman of the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (Nice) in the UK, won the award in the field of medicine.
Speaking at Siriraj Hospital yesterday, both Dr Amazigo and Sir Michael Rawlins said the award had come as a big surprise.
"I feel humble but also feel privileged by the people surrounding me here," Dr Amazigo said.
Her research into onchocerciasis was inspired by a pregnant African woman she met who suffered from the disease.
"She needed to take drugs constantly," Dr Amazigo said, citing how the woman had difficulty gaining access to the medicine. She felt encouraged to develop a community-based plan to distribute medicines using volunteers.
The community-based approach succeeded in educating community members about medical research and management skills.
People could have easier access to drugs and were able to control the disease using strategies they themselves had designed in collaboration with public health authorities.
The concept of community-directed treatment proved successful in controlling onchocerciasis in 500,000 communities across 19 countries covered by the Apoc campaign.
"If we allow people to design and distribute for themselves, the system will be more efficient," Dr Amazigo said.
Sir Michael was recognised by the Prince Mahidol Award committee as a pioneer in using scientific and clinical-based evidence to evaluate drugs' efficiency and worthiness.
He established Nice in 1999 to determine the impacts of drugs while assessing the efficacy and cost-effectiveness of medicines, medical instruments, and treatments.
Nice has published guidelines on how to get the best results at optimal costs.
Sir Michael said he had been frustrated with the time it took for research to be implemented into medical practice.
The cost of innovation is high but not much of it benefits patients, he said.
For this reason, he and his team worked out the guidelines to show doctors and decision-makers how to gain optimal use of resources and budgets.
His idea has been applied in the Health Intervention and Technology Assessment Programme in Thailand.
The Prince Mahidol Award is an annual award from the Thai royal family for medically outstanding achievements worldwide.
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Writer: Paritta Wangkiat