United Arab Emirates Health Foundation Prize 2017
The United Arab Emirates Health Foundation Prize of US$ 20 000 went to Professor Lô Boubou Baïdy, 61, of Mauritania, for his significant contribution to the establishment of the national blood transfusion centres and laboratory services , as well as his fight against viral hepatitis, HIV/AIDS and other sexually transmitted infections.
A sense of moral responsibility and determination to solve problems have driven Baïdy from the start of his distinguished career. After completing his specialization in medical biology he was nominated as the Head of the Laboratory and Blood Bank Department of the National Hospital.
“This was the only place in Mauritania at the time which could diagnose and confirm HIV/AIDS infection and viral hepatitis. It was also the only blood transfusion structure in the country, and every day I was confronted with extreme emergencies.”
One evening in October 1991, he was awakened at 03:00 by the blood bank technician, informing him that two patients had arrived with haemorrhages. “We had no tested blood and no donors available. This was to become a common event – and I was determined to find a solution.”
Baïdy set to work to advocate for the establishment of regional hospital blood banks across the country; technicians were trained and efforts made to improve the supply of blood. He also advocated for the development of a blood transfusion policy and the creation of a National Blood Transfusion Center.
It quickly became apparent that Mauritania had a serious hepatitis problem: 1 in 4 blood donors were infected with Hepatitis B, and there was a high frequency of chronic hepatitis and hepatocarcinoma in young people. In addition, HIV/AIDS cases were regularly being diagnosed and health professionals were not sufficiently prepared for case management.
After a decade of strengthening blood banks, transfusion and laboratory services to identify diseases, Baïdy made a transition designed to tackle those diseases head on. Accepting the appointment of Director of the National Institute of Public Health Research he began his work to find ways to fight HIV/AIDS, viral hepatitis, malaria, sickle cell anemia, schistosomiasis, viral haemorrhagic fevers and other communicable and noncommunicable diseases.
Baïdy advocated for the introduction, in 2002, of vaccination against hepatitis B in the expanded immunization programme. As a result of his efforts, the immunization was further strengthened through the introduction of vaccination against hepatitis B within 24 hours of birth.
In 2006 Baïdy became Professor of Medicine and Head of Fundamental Sciences Department of the Faculty of Medicine of Nouakchott University. He believes that today’s medical students must develop their competencies to determine a better public health vision for the future. “A strong sense of ethics, the ability to set realistic goals, the possession of focused ambition and determination to solve health problems – are all critical if we are to build our national capacities and human resources for public health.“
In 2010 Professor Lô Boubou Baïdy was appointed Inspector General for Health in the Ministry of Health of Mauritania, and contributed to the establishment of a national structure for the control of viral hepatitis in 2013.
“I am honoured to receive this prestigious WHO award – the United Arab Emirates Health Foundation prize. It will allow me to continue my advocacy for targeted research and action, as an ambassador for public health”