Washington, DC, 25 September 2018 (PAHO/WHO) – The Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) has recognized Dr. Natalia Largaespada Beer of Belize for her service to public health by presenting her with the PAHO Award for Health Services Management and Leadership. The recognition was made before an audience of health leaders from throughout the Americas attending the 56th PAHO Directing Council.

The award recognizes Dr. Largaespada Beer’s outstanding contributions to Belize’s maternal and child health program. Furthermore, the award also recognizes her contribution to the introduction and strengthening of evidence-based people and community-centered public health strategies to improve the lives of vulnerable populations.“A good public health practitioner must understand that what he or she does now has an impact on the quality of life of a patient, and the health of the community,” said Dr. Largaespada Beer upon receiving the award. “Each and all of us share the highest responsibility to advocate for the wellbeing of the population who pay us to provide them with quality services to improve their health status,” she added.

Dr. Largaespada Beer

Dr. Largaespada Beer is a Medical Doctor and Specialist in Sexual and Reproductive Health, currently serving as the Technical Advisor of the Maternal and Child Health Unit in the Ministry of Health in Belize. She is a member of the Caribbean technical working group on the elimination of mother to child transmission of HIV and syphilis, and the focal point for the Salud Mesoamerica Initiative Project in Belize, which seeks to reduce health equity gaps faced by those living in extreme poverty.

Dr. Largaespada Beer is responsible for the implementation of a variety of ground-breaking health care initiatives in Belize, including the reintroduction of the Baby-friendly Hospital initiative in 2006, and the introduction of the HPV vaccine into the national vaccination schedule. In 2012, she also established the prevention and surveillance system for neural tube defects in Belize.

“Health statistics show that there is a myth to be deconstructed,” said Dr. Largaespada Beer. “The social sector, which includes the ministries of education, human development and health, is not just more than the state’s expenditure, rather it is an investment in present and future generations, and therefore in the country’s development,” she concluded.

Established in 1969, the PAHO Award for Health Services Management and Leadership is awarded by the governments of the Americas in recognition of outstanding contributions to improving health systems development; management and administration of health services; development of programs, projects or initiatives with proven effects on coverage and access to health services at the national or regional level; among others. The award consists of a diploma and a cash prize of US$5,000.

Previous winners include Stella Bolaños Varela of Costa Rica (2016), Pastor Castell-Florit Serrate of Cuba (2016); Miguel Ángel Lezana Fernández of Mexico (2014); and Aron Nowinski of Uruguay (2012).