AKU’s Prof Zulfiqar wins prestigious Canadian award


Eminent Pakistani healthcare professional and researcher Prof Dr Zulfiqar Bhutta has been awarded the prestigious Canada Gairdner International Award 2022 for the “development and evaluation of evidence-based interventions in child and maternal health for marginalised populations, focusing on outcomes for the first thousand days” of life.

Prof Bhutta, who is the founding director of the Center of Excellence in Women and the Child Health and Institute for Global Health and Development at Aga Khan University, was among the five 2022 Canada Gairdner International Award laureates who have been recognised for seminal discoveries or contributions to biomedical science around the globe.

Announcing the names of 2022 Canada Gairdner Award laureates, the Gairdner Foundation, a non-profit organisation devoted to the recognition of outstanding achievements in biomedical research worldwide, said on Monday Dr Bhutta’s career had been focused on the improvement of child and maternal health and nutrition among marginalised and rural populations using evidence-based strategies and interventions to improve outcomes in the “first thousand days” of life (pregnancy, childbirth, and the first two years of life).

Developing a unique collaboration between centres in Pakistan, the United Kingdom and Canada, Bhutta has mobilised cluster randomised effectiveness trials (cRCTs) to gather data used to shape and improve intervention packages for community-based maternal and newborn care, nutrition, and early childhood development, the Toronto-based international foundation said.

Discussing the impact of Dr Bhutta’s research, the foundation said his work had been the foundation of multiple international guidelines, including changing WHO policy on the treatment of persistent diarrhea and malnutrition along with establishing lady health workers (LHW) as foundational members of community-based interventions in Pakistan, South Asia and sub-Saharan Africa.

Further, his work provided the basis for the “Lancet 10” nutritional interventions used to inform global policy on malnutrition, the citation for the ward said, adding that over the last two decades, his work on evidence-based interventions has helped guide global action plans to improve newborn health and survival.

“His rigorous approach to investigation has also challenged conventional wisdom, illustrating both the possibilities and limitations of vital interventions like community health workers. Dr Bhutta has worked extensively in low resource areas, using sustainable interventions that are available and affordable to disadvantaged populations”, the announcement added.

Through systematic investigation and analysis, he has established the foundations for current understandings of maternal and child health in rural, remote and conflict affected regions, and improved the survival and outcomes of world’s most vulnerable women and children, the announcement added.

Other 2022 Canada Gairdner Award laureates include Stuart H. Orkin, a distinguished Professor of Pediatrics from Harvard Medical School, United States, John E. Dick, a senior scientist and Canada Research Chair in Stem Cell Biology, Pieter Cullis, Katalin Karikó and Drew Weissman from University of British Columbia, and University of Pennsylvania and Deborah J. Cook from Canada

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