Former Burmese refugee and physician receives $100,000 award for improving the lives of refugees and vulnerable people

Published September 25, 2018

Annual Roux Prize honors individuals on the front lines of public health care delivery.

WASHINGTON, DC – Dr. Cynthia Maung, a Burmese physician and director of a clinic in Thailand, will be awarded $100,000 for using health data to improve the lives of refugees, migrant workers, and internally displaced people along the Burmese-Thai border.

She is the recipient of the 2018 Roux Prize, awarded to individuals who make outstanding contributions in the field of global public health. Past winners include a former mayor of Cali, Colombia, and the health minister of Mali.

“Dr. Maung and her team have made significant contributions to ensure the well-being of people on the Thai-Burmese border, regardless of their nationality or residency,” said Dave Roux, a Virginia-based entrepreneur and philanthropist. “Data has played an important role in determining interventions for patients. She is an inspiration to anyone committed to innovation behind disease burden research.”

Roux and his wife Barbara fund the annual Roux Prize, which is administered by the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) at the University of Washington in Seattle.

The award will be presented tonight (September 26) at an event in Washington, DC. Maung is one of more than 3,500 collaborators who contribute to the Global Burden of Disease study (GBD).

Maung, a refugee herself, established the Mae Tao Clinic in 1989 with the help of other Burmese physicians who fled to the city of Mae Sot, Thailand, to escape civil unrest in Burma. At the time, the Burmese government imposed martial law in response to pro-democracy protests staged by students and political activists. Many were killed in the ensuing crackdown.

Nearly 30 years later, what began as a one-bedroom facility with little equipment and resources has now grown to a large campus of buildings offering a wide range of health services. The clinic serves over 100,000 people every year at a little or no cost.

Maung collaborated with volunteers and received funding to develop a health information system that today is used throughout Burma and Thailand. The system has increased the quality of data and care for her clients, many of whom are stateless and, therefore, often overlooked in national statistical surveys.

This central repository of information allows Maung and her team to rank diseases according to their levels of burden, thereby developing specific treatment strategies. They also monitor trends to evaluate the impact of their treatment regimens.

“Sometimes, the government has a national plan, which does not include the undocumented or stateless people,” she said. “The government will show the data in the national level is getting better or improving, but it does not include the data from the internally displaced or undocumented.”

Anyone globally may be eligible for the Roux Prize; nominees could include, but are not limited to, staff in government agencies, researchers at academic institutions, volunteers in charitable organizations, or health care providers.

“This prize recognizes people who have used health evidence in bold ways to make people healthier,” said IHME Director Dr. Christopher Murray. “It is an honor and privilege to bestow the Roux Prize on individuals improving population health through better measurement of disease burden.”

Nominations for next year’s prize are due January 31, 2019; the winner will be announced at an event later in the year. Details on the nomination process for the Roux Prize are available at Nominations and questions about the prize can be sent to [email protected] or mailed to:

Roux Prize 
c/o Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation 
2301 Fifth Ave., Suite 600 
Seattle, WA 98121 USA

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