The Minister of Health, Dr Agnes Binagwaho will today, during an event in Washington DC, receive the Roux Prize award which was bestowed upon her for her contribution in turning data and evidence into health impact.
The award, which is being given for the second time, is worth $ 100,000 (Rwf73.6m).
The first winner, who got the award last year, is Harvard-trained epidemiologist and mayor of Cali, Colombia, Dr. Rodrigo Guerrero.
Binagwaho was specifically recognized for using Global Burden of Disease (GBD) data and evidence from her ministry’s own data-gathering efforts to ensure the country’s limited resources are saving the most lives and reducing suffering.
According to a statement, Binagwaho who worked directly with patients as a physician, has been an active user of GBD since 2012 and eventually joined the GBD enterprise as part of the international collaborative network, which now totals more than 1,400 contributors from 115 countries.
“The Global Burden of Disease, by creating and generating data, helps us understand where we need to invest the next dollar, the next effort, the next education initiative,” she is quoted in the statement as saying.
GBD is a systematic, scientific effort to quantify the comparative magnitude of health loss due to diseases, injuries, and risk factors.
Along with Dr Binagwaho, more than 20 Rwandans now collaborate on the GBD study.
Between 1990 and 2013, GBD data revealed that Rwandan life expectancy increased by about 15 years for both men and women, one of the strongest increases of any country in the world. Healthy life expectancy has also risen dramatically, by roughly 12 years for both sexes since 1990. Much of this improvement can be mapped directly to policies and investments instituted by the ministry of health.
For example, after looking at GBD estimates and finding that household air pollution was the leading risk factor for premature death and disability in the country, a program to distribute 1 million clean cook-stoves to the most vulnerable households was started.
The Roux prize was launched in 2013 by founding board members David Roux and his wife Barbara and is awarded by the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) at the University of Washington.
On a recent fact-finding trip, IHME researchers interviewed families who have received these cook-stoves and found that not only is the air they breathe much cleaner, but they are also spending less money on cooking fuel, allowing them to devote more of their household budget to healthier foods.
Dr. Binagwaho and her staff also analyzed GBD data to see where and how they could improve the country’s health and found a large percentage of Rwandans were dying during the first months of their lives. They decided to embark on a campaign to decrease neonatal deaths by investing money in education, equipment, and training in neonatology at hospitals throughout the country; the neonatal mortality rate has started to decrease.
“Whether you are in the capital of Kigali or out in a rural hospital, health policy decisions are being made based on data in Rwanda,” said Tom Achoki, IHME Director of African Initiatives.
“The Honorable Minister has made it a priority not only to educate the Ministry in how to produce and analyze quality data, but how to use data to effectively and efficiently overcome Rwanda’s health challenges.”
“In the course of her work leading Rwanda’s health policy and planning, Honorable Minister Binagwaho has come to embody what Dave and Barbara Roux had in mind when they conceptualized the Roux Prize: using rigorously derived evidence to improve health in her community,” said Dr. Christopher Murray, Director of IHME and co-founder of GBD.
Murray also observed that the ministry of health staff is using disease burden data to improve health with a commitment of making the Global Burden of Disease study stronger and more useful by vetting its results and addressing data gaps.