Professor Ibrahim Abubakar awarded 2023 Roux Prize
Published August 16, 2023
SEATTLE, Wash. August 10, 2023–Distinguished global health leader Ibrahim Abubakar is the recipient of the 2023 Roux Prize for his dedication to improving health outcomes over the last three decades.
Now in its 10th year, the Roux Prize has been recognizing individuals all over the globe who have leveraged evidence-based health data to improve population health. The Roux Prize is awarded by the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) at the University of Washington’s School of Medicine.
“Prof. Abubakar has been steadfast in his contributions to global health. His expertise and advocacy have directly affected policy implementation and the lives of millions of people,” said Dr. Chris Murray, Director of IHME. “Prof. Abubakar embodies exactly what the Roux Prize represents: innovation, ambition, collaboration. The world of public health is a stronger place because of his ongoing contributions and commitment to change.”
Prof. Abubakar’s greatest achievement is his recent work on The Lancet Nigeria Commission that directly led to Nigeria’s passing a new law mandating basic health insurance and the creation of a fund for vulnerable populations that covers 83 million underprivileged people. Leading an international multidisciplinary team in March 2022, he completed a comprehensive analysis of Nigeria’s health system supported by Global Burden of Disease (GBD) data. The research identified critical gaps and offered recommendations in key areas to improve health care staffing, information systems, and access to care for all Nigerians.
“What drives me each day is the firm belief that the existence of health inequalities is not a given – it is within our reach to eliminate inequitable access to care if we work collectively to improve the lives and conditions of the most disadvantaged among us,” said Prof. Abubakar, Dean of Faculty of Population Health Sciences at University College London.
Prof. Abubakar’s determination in pushing for fairness comes from his father, who was born in Nigeria’s north, one of the poorest regions in the world. His father lived under British colonial occupation amidst debilitating poverty but was able to get an education and build a career as a civil servant. As a child, Prof. Abubakar saw the social and economic disparities in his home country through his father’s work. As an adult, Prof. Abubakar chose to study medicine in northern Nigeria to address the health inequities.
“My career veered to population health after witnessing the ravaging effect of HIV and other infections on my patients. As a young doctor, I distinctly remember patients arriving in my ward and dying of a preventable form of meningitis. Most of these patients were too poor and had been failed by society,” said Prof. Abubakar. “I believe my subsequent achievements and persistent commitment to medicine and public health had a lot to do with the contrast I have seen all my life: what is possible with levels of opportunity and wealth and the unfairness of outcomes.”
Prof. Abubakar has been instrumental in the development of health initiatives for tuberculosis (TB) and COVID-19. As the head of TB in Public Health England in 2015, he developed a research program that improved screenings. Prof. Abubakar also chaired committees, such as the WHO Strategic Advisory Group for TB, that led to better diagnoses and increased access to treatment, contributing to a 2% annual decline in new TB cases globally from 2015 to 2018.
In 2020, Prof. Abubakar was appointed as Scientific and Technical Adviser to the Nigeria Presidential Taskforce on COVID-19. He organized a team that responded to daily requests for evidence, aided in developing the type and timing of national COVID-19 restrictions, and wrote over 40 policy papers that ultimately served as a national vaccination policy. He is also leading an international study on COVID-19 variants, which includes cohorts from Europe, South America, Africa, and Asia.
“I feel lucky that my career and role allow me to have the privileges of working in a top university in the UK and impacting health policy in my adopted country, while being able to contribute to the generation of evidence that influences global health and health policy in Africa and Nigeria specifically,” said Prof. Abubakar.
As the Roux Prize winner, Prof. Abubakar will receive a $100,000 award to reinforce his efforts to support health systems in Nigeria and Africa’s Sahel region, benefitting some of the world’s poorest countries, among other significant global health programs. He will be recognized at an award ceremony on Oct. 12 in London.
IHME will accept nominations for the 2024 Roux Prize in September. Nominations are accepted globally and can include, but are not limited to, staff in government agencies, researchers at academic institutions, volunteers in charitable organizations, or health providers working in the community.
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About the Roux Prize
The Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) is an independent global health research organization at the University of Washington School of Medicine that provides rigorous and comparable measurement of the world’s most important health problems and evaluates the strategies used to address them. IHME is committed to transparency and makes this information widely available so that policymakers have the evidence they need to make informed decisions on allocating resources to improve population health.