Sir Fazle Hasan Abed Receives Thomas Francis, Jr. Medal in Global Public Health

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Founder of BRAC credits lessons learned from early efforts combating dehydration to improve the science of delivery

Sir Fazle of Bangladesh

Sir Fazle Hasan Abed speaks with women in a rural community of Bangladesh.

“There is much excitement today about the potential of new technology to end human poverty. This can make us forget that many solutions already exist. We can reach millions more today by focusing less on ‘what’ and more on ‘how'." – Sir Fazle Hasan Abed

Sir Fazle Hasan Abed, founder and chairperson of the international development organization, BRAC, was today given the Thomas Francis, Jr. Medal in Global Public Health award by the University of Michigan. Sir Fazle has been recognized for his advancement of global public health and work to establish a healthier future for people living in poverty worldwide.

University of Michigan President Mark Schlissel presented the medal at a ceremony at the Ross School of Business on April 6, 2016. The medal, periodically awarded to a global leader whose work addresses the most pressing global health challenges, honors the legacy of the University of Michigan epidemiologist who mentored Dr. Jonas Salk in his development of the polio vaccine.

“It is indeed a great honor to receive the Thomas Francis, Jr. Medal in Global Public Health,” said Sir Fazle at the award ceremony. “It gives me tremendous pleasure and I thank the University of Michigan for bestowing this prestigious award on me.”

“In global development, it is not a lack of new and bright ideas that is impeding progress but rather our ability to implement these ideas well, effectively and at scale,” said Sir Fazle. “There is much excitement today about the potential of new technology to end human poverty. This can make us forget that many solutions already exist. We can reach millions more today by focusing less on ‘what’ and more on ‘how’.”

In the 1970s, BRAC pioneered a new approach to treating diarrheal disease in Bangladesh. Known as Oral Rehydration Therapy (ORT), BRAC reached 12 million mothers almost entirely through person-to-person education, revolutionizing health delivery in the country. Bangladesh now has the world’s highest ORT usage rate, providing a case study in how to do a good thing better. In addition, between 1990 and 2011, Bangladesh saw a two-thirds reduction in mortality rates for children under the age of five. As a result, the country met the 2015 health standard set by the United Nations.

Today, BRAC breaks the cycle of contamination caused by limited access to toilets, latrines and safe water sources, especially in rural areas. Nearly one in three people worldwide – about 2.5 billion – don’t have access to adequate sanitation and nearly one in ten people – about 700 million – don’t have access to clean water.

By focusing on innovation, technical assistance, and community-based education, BRAC water and sanitation for health (WASH) committees have reached 38 million people, largely in rural areas of the country.

BRAC's WASH programs are part of a larger set of poverty eradication initiatives to empower the poor, women and girls especially. BRAC uses tools like microfinance, education, healthcare, legal services, community empowerment, social enterprises, and a full-fledged university, BRAC University, to uplift people living in poverty. BRAC reaches 138 million people worldwide in 12 countries, making it the largest international development organization in the world.

Sir Fazle joins past winners Dr. William Foege and Dr. Alfred Sommer, who have improved the health and well being of millions of people.

Notes to editor:    

About the Thomas Francis, Jr. Award

The Thomas Francis, Jr. Medal in Global Public Health celebrates the University of Michigan’s excellence in research and impact on humanity, while recognizing the greatest achievements of those who have advanced human health and welfare around the globe.

Dr. Thomas Francis, Jr., University of Michigan director of the Poliomyelitis Vaccine Evaluation Center and the founding chair of epidemiology in the School of Public Health, directed the field studies of the Salk polio vaccine developed by Dr. Jonas Salk and his team at the University of Pittsburgh. Salk studied under Francis as a graduate student at the University of Michigan.

Francis designed and led an unprecedented $17.5 million nationwide field trial to test the vaccine. Conducted by a staff of more than 100 people from the University of Michigan, the year-long trial involved 1.8 million children in the U.S., Canada, and Finland and an enormous network of community volunteers. The results of the study signaled an era of hope and success in combating infectious diseases.

Francis also is remembered for first isolating influenza virus and for developing the first killed-virus flu vaccine—the technology still used in flu shots today.

About Sir Fazle Hasan Abed

Sir Fazle Hasan Abed founded BRAC, formerly Bangladesh Rural Advancement Committee, in 1972. He has received numerous honorary degrees including Doctor of Humane Letters from Yale University (2007); Doctor of Laws from Columbia University (2008); Doctor of Letters from the University of Oxford (2009); In 2010, he was appointed Knight Commander of the Most Distinguished Order of St. Michael and St. George (KCMG) by the British crown in recognition of his services to reducing poverty in Bangladesh and internationally.

About BRAC

BRAC is a global leader in creating opportunities for the world's poorest. With more than 115,000 employees, it is the world's largest non-governmental organization, touching the lives of an estimated 138 million people in 12 countries using a wide array of anti-poverty tools such as microfinance, education, healthcare, legal rights training and more. Learn more about BRAC at or

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