2013- Sarah Shannon

In by Marc Pitre

Sarah Shannon provides lifesaving information and educational tools used by people and communities worldwide to take greater control of their health. As Executive Director of Hesperian Health Guides, she has promoted the inclusion of early childhood development into primary health care, spearheading the development of the pioneering Early Assistance book series and incorporating early childhood development and updated child survival information into Where There Is No Doctor and other Hesperian publications.

The Early Assistance series, developed in collaboration with community groups in 25 countries, recognizes that families are the primary resource for children with disabilities, and empowers them to support their children’s full and healthy development. Over 20,000 Early Assistance books in 20+ languages have been distributed around the world. Under Sarah’s leadership, Hesperian has also produced materials on environmental health, women’s health, HIV/AIDS, and disabilities, all with the aim of supporting those working to ensure the healthy development of all children.

Since its first publication in 1973, Hesperian’s flagship title Where There Is No Doctor has undergone 28 updated editions, has been translated into 80 languages, and more than 3 million copies in circulation have touched the lives of well over 100 million people around the world — the World Health Organization has called it “the most widely used health guide in the world.” Sarah has led Hesperian to expand the reach of this book and the reach of primary health care itself, in print and a variety of digital formats, in ways that are accessible to community health workers and educators at a grassroots level. CORE Group members use these materials extensively.

Before joining Hesperian in 1996, Sarah worked for 14 years on community health and development projects in Central America. She has worked for Catholic Relief Services and Salvadoran NGOs, training hundreds of community health workers in Honduras and El Salvador, and founded a nonprofit firm that provided participatory administrative and financial management consulting to over 80 NGOs, women’s organizations and community associations in post-war El Salvador. Sarah was awarded the Premio Asturias by the Spanish government for her work in Central America; and the “Mid-Career Award” by the American Public Health Association’s International Health Section, of which she is Secretary. Sarah was a Steering Council member of the People’s Health Movement for a decade and actively collaborates with the CORE Group and its members to make real the human right to health.