Geneva, 25 May 2018 (PAHO/WHO) - The Pro Palliative Care Unit Foundation of Costa Rica was awarded the World Health Organization's Sasakawa Health Prize at a ceremony held today during the 71st World Health Assembly.
The Foundation's president Lisbeth Quesada Tristán received the award, which consists of US$40,000 and a statuette. The Sasakawa Prize was awarded to the Foundation for its contribution to the rights of children with terminal illnesses.
Created in 1992 in Costa Rica, the Foundation supports the National Program of Pediatric Palliative Care for children and adolescents with life-limiting conditions during the terminal phases of their lives. It operates in the National Children's Hospital and other medical centers, as well as in home settings across Costa Rica.
Yohei Sasakawa, WHO's Goodwill Ambassador for the Elimination of Leprosy and Chairman of the Nippon Foundation, presented the prize. In his speech, he noted that the Costa Rican foundation has made a significant and innovative contribution to health that has improved the lives of children with terminal illnesses.
"Many countries do not have this type of care for children and families that face these challenges," he said. "There is a great deal to learn from the foundation's work. This is a very important step in addressing this topic, in achieving health for all."
In turn, an emotional Quesada Tristán expressed her deep gratitude for the prize, for "the hope it offers and faith in humankind for its solidarity. Thank you for your support which allows us to continue working with the large and small details."
"Pediatric palliative care is the art of caring, supporting, or just being there for a child," she explained. "We need to reach more children in Costa Rica who need pediatric palliative care. We are only serving one-third of the population that needs it. This is the biggest challenge to growing."
The Foundation plans to offer its services to all children and adolescents who need pediatric palliative care in Costa Rica by 2019. The Sasakawa prize will contribute to that goal. Quesada Tristán said they are working to ensure that all children can have palliative care when they need it, regardless of where they live.
"We will be there in those last years, months, days or minutes of their lives. We will support both the patient and his or her family. Every person has the right to a dignified death," the Foundation's president said.
At the beginning of the awards ceremony, WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus explained that the prizes are awarded to those who inspire others through their health work in the field.
"The measure of success is the difference we make in the lives of people," Dr. Tedros stressed. These prizes "remind us that what matters is not what we produce but the outcomes we achieve."
The Sasakawa Health Prize is awarded for outstanding innovative work in health development to one or more persons, institutions, or nongovernmental organizations. This work includes the promotion of given health programs or notable advances in primary health care.
About the Pro Palliative Care Unit Foundation of Costa Rica
Since 1996, the Foundation has supported the National Program of Pediatric Palliative Care for children and sick adolescents during the terminal life phases. It operates in the National Children's Hospital and other medical centers, but also makes house visits across Costa Rica.
The Foundation trains health professionals from Costa Rica and elsewhere in Latin America. Since 2006, it has run a master's program in palliative care in conjunction with Santa Paula University. The Foundation operates two day centers, which are run by multidisciplinary volunteer teams who offer activities such as music therapy, art therapy, and dog therapy, as well as physiotherapy, occupational therapy, hypnosis, and reiki.
It also trains family caregivers and operates a national home-visit program. It provides medical equipment and products such as wheelchairs, oxygen tanks, and nebulizers at reasonable cost. It assists low-income families with the purchase of medicines, and also provides monthly food assistance.
In addition, the Foundation runs a mourning program, offering a one-year follow-up for parents, siblings, and caregivers of a deceased child, and provides funding support for the funeral.