05. Mar 2018

Professor Azad Khan receives Independence Award

Gwendolyn Carleton
A key WDF partner receives Bangladesh’s highest civilian honour.
Prof Azad Khan
Prof. Azad Khan (centre) with two religious leaders working on the WDF project ‘Preconception care through religious leaders in Bangladesh’, WDF15-1237.
On Feb 20, the government of Bangladesh announced that Professor Azad Khan will receive the 2018 Independence Day Award for Social Service. Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina will present the award to Prof Khan and the year’s other award winners on 26 March. 
Prof Khan has been a key WDF partner for more than a decade, working with the Foundation to improve diabetes prevention and care across the country. Many of these projects have been quite innovative, and focused on extending care to Bangladesh’s most rural areas. They include WDF06-195, WDF08-397, WDF10-488, WDF10-494, WDF-F03-001, and WDF15-1237
“His untiring efforts to improve the quality of life of people with diabetes and to build the world’s largest diabetes association directly providing care for more than half of people with diabetes in Bangladesh is indeed amazing,” says WDF Board Chairman Dr Anil Kapur.
A model approach to combatting NCDs 
Prof. Khan completed undergraduate medical training in Dhaka in 1965, and after Bangladesh’s independence he travelled to Oxford, where he received clinical training in gastroenterology. Upon returning to Bangladesh in the late 1970s, he saw the need for increased focus on non-communicable diseases (NCDs) in his home country. 
“Even at that time it was clear to me that lifestyle was playing an increasingly important role in my country's health, especially with rapid urbanisation,” he told The Lancet in a 2012 profile.
Although Prof Khan was working in gastroenterology, it was an approach from his father-in-law, Mohammed Ibrahim, one of the founders of the Diabetic Association of Bangladesh (BADAS) that would change his life, and soon the country's health system. 
His vision was for BADAS to implement direct diabetes treatment services within Bangladesh's health system. Today, it owns more than 100 healthcare institutions of various sizes offering outpatient and inpatient treatment. It also owns three Medical Colleges and a university, reflecting Prof Khan's background in academic medicine. 
Prof Khan has also promoted the creation of a country-wide diabetes and NCD network of Affiliated Associations (AAs), which now number 71 nationwide – with nearly all districts represented. BADAS covers its costs, charges wealthier patients, and provides free care to those who cannot pay.  
Together, this has been named ‘Ibrahim Model’ after Prof Khan’s father-in-law. Through this model BADAS is currently looking after more than half of all people with diabetes in Bangladesh - and hoping to cover 75% by 2020. More than 15,000 people with diabetes are cared every day in BADAS affiliated institutions across the country.
Substantial contribution
Introduced in 1977, The Independence Day Award is the highest civilian honour bestowed upon Bangladeshi citizens or organisations in recognition of substantial contribution to many fields, including among others public service, science and technology, medical science, etc. 
Each awardee receives a gold medal, a certificate of honour, and a cash award.