Peter Figueroa, a Jamaican doctor and professor, was honored as a health leader at the World Health Assembly in Geneva, Switzerland, on May 20, 2019. Dr. Figueroa was recognized for the contributions he has made to public health in Jamaica, the Caribbean, the Americas, and the world over a period of 40 years. Dr. Figueroa is a Professor of Public Health, Epidemiology and HIV-AIDS at the University of the West Indies in Jamaica. He was presented with a plaque from Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the director general of the World Health Organization (WHO). Upon being recognized by the international health body, Dr. Figueroa said, “This recognition means a lot to me. It is a true honor. I’ve been working in public health for forty years and believe that I am an example, like many other health workers, of someone who commits their life to trying to help others.“
Dr. Figueroa worked in the public health sector in Jamaica after obtaining his medical degree. He was instrumental in developing Primary Health Care in Jamaica, a movement that included introducing community health aides prior to the Alma Ata Declaration in 1978 He received a Ph.D. from the School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine in 1996 from the University of London. He has written or co-authored over 150 published articles and co-edited three books on various public health topics since then.
Additionally, Dr. Figueroa organized medical personnel in the government sector and form the Junior Doctors Association, which became the Jamaica Medical Doctors Association. The organization’s goal is to improve health services and work conditions. He was a founding member of the Caribbean Public Health Association and the Caribbean College of Family Practitioners. He received the United Nations Peace Medal in 1986 for his work as vice-chair of the National Committee for the Commemoration of the International Year of Peace. During his career, Dr. Figueroa has served as Principal Medical Officer – Epidemiology in the Ministry of Health; Chief Medical Officer; Director of the National HIV-STI Program; Scientific Secretary and Chair of the Caribbean Health Research Council (CHRC); and temporary advisor to WHO on a range of public health topics.
From his early career days, Dr. Figueroa has been instrumental in the response to HIV in Jamaica and led the response from 1986 to 2008. His leadership transformed the response into a very successful multi-sector program.
Currently, Dr. Figueroa is chair of the Caribbean Immunization Technical Advisory Group, which advises Caribbean Ministers of Health. He is also the chair of the Caribbean Certification Committee for Eradication of Poliovirus. He has made major contributions to public health research on a wide range of public health and infectious disease topics.
In Jamaica Dr/ Figueroa in the recipient of many awards, including the Medical Association of Jamaica President’s Award, the Jamaica Public Health Hero Award, the Caribbean Health Research Council Award for outstanding contribution to Public Health and Research in the Caribbean, and the Order of Jamaica.
Commenting on his work, Dr. Figueroa noted, “Health is more than health. It is having a just society. It is having the social conditions in the place where persons, special the most vulnerable are not left behind.”