Drugs and Public Health in Developing Countries

Tuesday, March 19, 2002
6:30 PM - 8:00 PM
Philippines Conference Room
  • Dr. Zafrullah Chowdury

Dr. Chowdhury is a vascular surgeon and pioneering public health leader from Bangladesh who wrote "The Politics of Essential Drugs: The Makings of a Successful Health Strategy: Lessons from Bangladesh." In 1971, Dr. Chowdhury left England to return to what was then East Pakistan and join the war of liberation for Bangladesh. He helped establish a field hospital for freedom fighters and refugees, which lead to the development Gonoshasthaya Kendra (GK) or "The People's Health Center." GK has trained more than 7,000 barefoot doctors, and serves 1,000 villages in 14 Bangladeshi districts. A pharmaceutical factory was established by GK in 1981 which produces medicines on the World Health Organization's essential medicines list; employs 1,500 people and has an $11 million annual budget. One-half of its profits are reinvested and the other half go to GK's other projects. In 1985, Dr. Chowdhury and GK were awarded the Ramon Magsaysay Award (sometimes called the Asian Nobel Peace Prize) and in 1992, the Right Livelihood Award (also known as the alternative Nobel Prize). Dr. Chowdhury was instrumental in convincing the Bangladesh government to adopt a National Drug Policy in 1982. This controversial policy promotes essential medicines and discourages the use of drugs with little therapeutic value. GK hosted the People's Health Assembly in December 2000, which challenged global health organizations to improve public health care for the poor. Dr. Chowdhury is this year's International Honoree of the UC Berkeley School of Public Health Heroes.