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Mohammad N. Akhter continued from front page

It is the largest and the oldest public health association in the world. We are now celebrating our 125th anniversary this year. Our membership works in the government, in education institutions, in non-governmental organizations to improve the health of the people. In fact, our membership is the heartbeat of public health in America, and they have expressed their solidarity with the people of South Africa.

For many years, our association and its Committee for Health in Southern Africa have been very supportive, Mr. President, of your efforts and your fight for freedom, human rights, and social justice in South Africa. We rejoice in what the people of South Africa have been able to achieve under your leadership in such a short period of time. It’s a great success story of our time, where peace, justice, and improved health status that you have brought to the people have made us all proud of your accomplishments.

It is my pleasure now to introduce our president, Dr. Barry Levy, to make the presentation.


Barry S. Levy

Thank you, Dr. Akhter. Mr. President, I am greatly honored to be here today to present to you the 1997 Presidential Citation of the American Public Health Association. Each year, this award is given to somebody outside of the field of public health who has made a major contribution to public health.

Mr. President, in many ways you have made enormous contributions to public health. You have led the transition to freedom and democracy here in South Africa — a peaceful transition that has preserved and protected the health of the nation. You have led the campaign to overcome racism and other forms of discrimination, and created a culture here — a culture supportive of human rights. And you have led the development and implementation of many progressive policies and programs for public health, policies and programs to promote the health of people and to prevent disease and injury, from reducing smoking to preventing HIV infection and AIDS, to improving nutrition, to assuring worker health and safety; policies and programs to increase access to health care, especially to children and to pregnant women and to women who are breastfeeding; and policies and programs that ultimately will achieve adequate housing and education and employment for all people.

Mr. President, with this award we honor you for your outstanding leadership for public health. You are a true global champion for health and peace, for human rights and social justice. It is with great respect and admiration for what you have done, for what you have stood for for many years — and what you still stand for, and for who you are, that I now present you with the 1997 Presidential Citation of the American Public Health Association.


Nelson Mandela

I am deeply honored to receive this citation, that is because it comes from an association of men and women who are dedicated to the public health and well-being of their nation — an organization that also cares for the health of people across the world.

I would like to use this opportunity to express our appreciation to members of the American Public Health Association as part of the international community of public health workers for their solidarity with our struggle for freedom. Your support was essential to our victory, which is also your victory. We thank you from the bottom of our hearts.

As we face our new challenges, we are strengthened by the knowledge that we have your continuing support. Freedom for South Africa and Southern Africa has brought us the opportunity, at last, to address the basic needs of our people. It allows us not only to attend to the immediate health needs, but also to begin to eradicate the legacy of poverty and inequity — that is the greatest threat to our public health.

Achieving these goals will take us many years, but we have made a start and we face the future with confidence. We do so because the people of South Africa have united to put the conflict of the past behind them and to work together for a better life for all, especially the poor. It is this achievement of our whole nation I do know that you are celebrating by the honor you are awarding me and I humbly accept it in their name.

May your award and our acceptance of it strengthen the continued partnership of public health workers in South Africa and the United States, in Africa, and across the globe for health, social justice, human rights, and peace. I thank you.



1950: APHA member Jonas Salk introduces Salk vaccine for polio.

The story of the polio crusade pays tribute to a time when Americans banded together to conquer a terrible disease. The medical breakthrough saved countless lives and had a pervasive impact on American philanthropy that continues to be felt today.