2006 HEALTH AWARD
Nancy Harris, M.D., has worked for decades to reverse the life-threatening health challenges affecting the lives of nearly one million under-served Tibetan children in the remote Tibet Autonomous Region and adjacent Tibetan ethnic areas of China.
Dr. Harris first noted unusual growth stunting in children while visiting the region in 1990. For seven years, she and her tri-cultural team of Tibetan, Chinese and Western health workers weighed, measured and examined several thousands of children. The resulting data, published in the prestigious New England Journal of Medicine in 2001, documented that these children were not “short but healthy” as previously believed, but were in fact severely malnourished and chronically ill. As a result these children are at high risk of death from easily preventable and treatable conditions such as diarrhea, pneumonia and tuberculosis.
To prevent this needless mortality, Dr. Harris, Founder and President of the Terma Foundation, worked with local traditional elders, women, and villagers to develop six integrated child and community health programs. Programs are implemented by local Tibetan staff as meaningful, culturally acceptable and sustainable community-based interventions, with emphasis on health education. The survival of these children is the greatest hope for the future of this fragile indigenous culture, which remains geographically excluded from significant large-scale health assistance.
Spending six to eight months a year in the field, Dr. Nancy Harris continues her dedication to generate awareness and direct resources to address this dire situation. Field programs, based in Lhasa, reach over 300,000 child and community beneficiaries per year.