Pioneer of oral rehydration therapy receives Prince Mahidol Award

HSPH faculty member Richard Cash helped prove the case for treatment that saved millions of lives

Boston, MA -- Dr. Richard Cash, credited with saving millions of lives by promoting the use of oral rehydration therapy to treat cholera and other diarrheal diseases, has been named a joint recipient of the 2006 Prince Mahidol Award for "exemplary contributions in the field of public health."

Dr. Cash will receive the award from Their Majesties the King and Queen of Thailand at a ceremony at the Grand Palace in Bangkok in January 2007. Dr. Cash has been an HSPH faculty member in the Department of Population and International Health for 27 years, and has focused his work on infectious disease problems in the developing world, as well as on ethical issues in international health research.

Previous winners of the Prince Mahidol Award have included Dr. Margaret Chan, who was recognized for her work in curbing an avian influenza outbreak in the late 1990s (Dr. Chan has been announced as the next Director-General of the World Health Organization); Sir Richard Peto, whose work argued for the use of tamoxifen in the treatment of breast cancer; and Drs. Tore Godal and Adetokunbo Oluwole Lucas, who jointly won the award for their contribution toward the development of the special Program on Tropical Disease Research. See here for a full listing of previous winners.

The Prince Mahidol Award Foundation confers two international awards each year--in the fields of medicine and public health. Dr. Stanley Schultz was recognized this year in medicine for providing the scientific basis for the use of oral rehydration therapy solution.

In the field of public health, Dr. Cash was recognized with Drs. David Nalin and Dilip Mahalanabis for their contributions "to the application of the oral rehydration solution in the treatment of severe diarrhea worldwide, including Thailand. It is estimated that each year around 500 million packs of the oral rehydration solution is used in more than 60 developing countries, saving millions of lives around the world."

Oral rehydration therapy, also known as oral rehydration solution, is a simple saltwater-glucose solution that helps replenish lost fluids during diarrheal illnesses. Inexpensive, the solution can be imbibed by patients and does not require an IV. The therapy was introduced and promulgated in the 1960s and 70s. Drs. Cash and Nalin were involved in the first clinical trial that demonstrated the practicality and usefulness of oral treatment for dehydration caused by diarrhea. Dr. Mahalanabis directed the first large-scale use of the solution in a disaster situation in refugee camps along the India/Bangladesh border in 1971.

The World Health Organization has reported that the mortality rate for children suffering from acute diarrhea has fallen from 5 million to 1.3 million deaths annually since adopting the therapy in 1978 as its primary tool to fight diarrhea.

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For more information about the award, see http://www.kanchanapisek.or.th/pmaf/news/award2006.en.html

For more information about Dr. Cash, see http://www.hsph.harvard.edu/review/summer_solution.shtml

Also, see the latest news from the Harvard School of Public Health.

Harvard School of Public Health is dedicated to advancing the public's health through learning, discovery, and communication. More than 300 faculty members are engaged in teaching and training the 900-plus student body in a broad spectrum of disciplines crucial to the health and well being of individuals and populations around the world. Programs and projects range from the molecular biology of AIDS vaccines to the epidemiology of cancer; from risk analysis to violence prevention; from maternal and children's health to quality of care measurement; from health care management to international health and human rights.


Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 21 Feb 2009
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