A Filipino doctor, researcher, exclusive breastfeeding advocate and founder of an NGO was awarded the 2023 Emirates Health Foundation Award at the recent 76th World Health Assembly in Geneva, Switzerland.
Dr. Maria Asuncion Silvestre from the Philippines was recognized for her advocacy work promoting exclusive breastfeeding and improving the health of mothers and newborns.
Dr. Silvestre worked with the Philippine government and 17 other countries in the WHO (World Health Organization) Western Pacific Region to scale up the “First Hugs Campaign for Early Essential Newborn Care,” a simple and cost-effective set of WHO-recommended The action of a health worker during labor and caring for her newborn immediately after birth and during the first week of life.
Her work has helped save lives at the national level and beyond, earning her the 2023 UAE Health Foundation Award.
“We tried to ‘reprogram’ movements during the first few minutes to hours after birth, eliminating unnecessary movements, so we developed a time-bound sequence of steps,” Sylvester said at the award ceremony.
“Many health care facilities in our country and elsewhere have implemented and benefited from this protocol. Evidence shows that receiving at least one of the four core steps is protective; neonatal survival improved significantly with greater access to essential elements of care The more. Breastfeeding saves lives,” she stressed.
Dr. Silvestre received his BS degree in Zoology with honors from the University of the Philippines Los Baños in 1978 and his MD degree in 1982 from the University of Manila. After completing advanced studies in Neonatal-Perinatal Medicine at the Children’s Hospital of the Philippines at the University of Michigan and Wayne State University, she became a faculty member at the UP School of Medicine and UP Philippine General Hospital. She advocated breastfeeding as a core component of pediatric education and wrote a chapter on infant and young child feeding in the textbook Fundamentals of Pediatrics.
Dr Silvestre currently chairs the Independent Review Group (IRG) for Early Essential Neonatal Care at WHO’s Western Pacific Regional Office and co-directs the I-CATCH Community Project for Unang Yakap and Breastfeeding in Durag City, Wright Island, Philippines.
Contribution to Healthy Development
The UAE Health Foundation Award was established in 1993 under the direction of the late Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, the late Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, the founding father of the UAE. Prizes include award certificates, medals and a $40,000 cash prize.
The award is given to one or more individuals, institutions or non-governmental organizations who have made outstanding contributions to the development of health. Previous recipients of the award include former US First Lady Hillary Clinton (1998), Doctors Without Borders (2002), Sir Magdi Jacob of Egypt (2003), Queen Rania of Jordan (2005) ), the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation (2007), and the Korea Institute for Drug Safety and Risk Management (2018).
Dr Silvestre received the award from Chris Fearn, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Health of Malta and Chairman of WHA76; Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director-General of WHO; and Dr Hussain Abdul Rahman Al Rand, Assistant Undersecretary for Public Health at the UAE Ministry of Health and Prevention.
Dr Al Rand said: “The aim of the Emirates Health Foundation Awards is to inspire further achievements of health workers, including scientists, researchers, workers and experts, to benefit health across all sectors, and to serve the entire United Nations system and WHO in particular in implementing projects and programs to address global health challenges.”
Alfonsoville, Philippine Ambassador to the UAE, congratulated Dr. Sylvester and expressed his gratitude to the UAE. In a statement sent to the Khaleej Times, he said: “I take this opportunity to congratulate Dr Silvestre on receiving the Emirates Health Foundation Award 2023. This extraordinary achievement is a testament to her dedication to her profession and her innovation, She made a remarkable contribution to solving a critical health issue – saving lives and ensuring the Philippines and its potential impact on the rest of the world. I thank the UAE for recognizing Dr. Sylvester, which also reflects the UAE’s commitment to Filipinos Recognition for the significant contribution made by Mr. Mabuhai!
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