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October 7, 2014

Mathuram Santosham Receives 2014 Fries Prize for Improving Health

Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health professor honored for his contribution to children’s health around the world

 

Mathuram Santosham, MD, MPH, a professor in the departments of international health and pediatrics at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and director of the Johns Hopkins Center for American Indian Health, has been awarded the 2014 Fries Prize for Improving Health. The award was presented today at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in Atlanta, GA, and is based on his research and contribution to fighting the deadly Haemophilus influenzae type b (Hib) disease. As a result of this work, every country in the world has made the decision to use the Hib conjugate vaccine. Gavi, an international organization created to improve access to vaccines for children in poor countries, estimates that by the year 2020, approximately 7 million lives will have been saved by using the Hib vaccine.  

“Dr. Santosham has dedicated himself to assure that all children in the world have access to life-saving Hib vaccines,” says Dr. James F. Fries, professor emeritus of medicine at Stanford University and chairman of the James F. and Sarah T. Fries Foundation, which in partnership with the CDC Foundation awards the annual prize. “Thanks to the work of Dr. Santosham, one of the most lethal diseases of children is near elimination in many countries.”

Santosham is regarded as an international expert in oral rehydration therapy and childhood vaccines. Throughout his career, he has conducted numerous vaccine efficacy trials, including rotavirus vaccine, Hib conjugate vaccine and pneumococcal conjugate vaccine among American Indian populations. Santosham was principal investigator of the Hib Initiative. The program was started with a $37 million grant awarded by Gavi to Johns Hopkins University to support a consortium among the University, CDC, the World Health Organization (WHO) and the London School for Hygiene and Tropical Medicine to help encourage evidence-based decision making around the introduction of Hib vaccines in the world’s poorest countries. When the Hib Initiative started, only 20 percent of Gavi-eligible countries – that is, those that met minimum income thresholds -- had introduced the Hib vaccine.

As of this year, all Gavi-eligible countries have introduced the Hib vaccine, with more than 95 percent of all countries now using the Hib vaccine in their national immunization programs.

Prior to the development and adoption of the vaccine, the Hib bacteria was the leading cause of serious bacterial infections such as meningitis and pneumonia in the US and around the world, which resulted in death or long-term neurological consequences among many affected children.

“I am deeply humbled and honored to receive the Fries Prize,” Santosham says. “I want to thank the White Mountain Apache and Navajo tribes and all who have worked with us to prove the efficacy of the Hib vaccine and promote its use worldwide.”

Santosham founded the Johns Hopkins Center for American Indian Health in 1991, based on 15 years of public health outreach to southwestern American Indian tribes. It is now one of the largest national resources to advance the health of Native peoples. Working in partnership with tribes, Santosham and his Center have achieved landmark public health breakthroughs that today save and improve millions of lives worldwide. The Center’s current work focuses on the critical needs of Native communities— including obesity, diabetes, suicide, depression, substance abuse and HIV/AIDS. Key initiatives include mental health screening and triage; home-visiting programs to promote maternal health and child development and prevent diabetes; youth nutrition and physical fitness promotion; HIV-prevention education; and youth entrepreneurship programs.

Santosham is also a senior advisor to the International Vaccine Access Center, also at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, and chair of the ROTA Council. He serves on numerous national and international committees on infant vaccines and oral rehydration therapy, has consulted with international agencies including WHO, USAID and UNICEF and has provided consultation in various aspects of child survival in more than 30 countries. Santosham is the recipient of numerous awards including the Thrasher Research Fund award for excellence in research and the Albert B. Sabin Gold Medal Award for his contributions in the field of vaccinology.

First presented in 1992, the Fries Prize for Improving Health recognizes an individual who has made major accomplishments in health improvement with emphasis on recent contributions to health in the United States, and with the general criteria of the greatest good for the greatest number. It is intended for an individual who has done the most to improve health. For more information on the Fries Prize, visit the Fries Foundation. For more information, visit the Johns Hopkins Center for American Indian Health.

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Media contact for Johns Hopkins Center American Indian Health: Lindsey Ford at lford12@jhu.edu.

Media contact for the International Vaccine Access Center: Kelly Healy at khealy5@jhu.edu.