By December 5, 2021All The Talks, videos page

Bangladesh at 50: From basket-case to a basket of innovations

When Bangladesh became independent in 1971, skeptics were unsure about its future as a nation. Now fifty years on, the country has turned around and has been able to significantly improve the lives of its population. The poverty rate has declined and so has child and maternal mortality and human fertility. Child immunization, family planning acceptance and sanitation have improved. Primary school enrolment is universal for both boys and girls. Life expectancy has reached 73 years, surpassing that of its neighbours. Such gains have taken place despite chronic poverty and rising income inequality. This lecture will explore the paradox and the outlook for the future.


For over four decades, Mushtaque Chowdhury has contributed enormously to global health research, education, and practice. With an MSc and PhD from London University, he served BRAC, the world’s largest NGO that reaches over 120 million disadvantaged people, as its Vice Chair, Executive Director, and Research Director. He also worked as a Fellow for Harvard University and as Senior Adviser and acting Managing Director for the Rockefeller Foundation. Currently he holds a professorial appointment at Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health. He is the Convener of Bangladesh Health Watch and a Senior Fellow of the Bangladesh Institute of Development Studies (BIDS).

With nearly 200 articles and books to his credit, Chowdhury is a pioneer of ‘implementation research’. His interdisciplinary work into the delivery of the world’s largest Oral Rehydration Therapy (ORT) program has contributed to saving millions of lives. As an institution builder par excellence, he founded BRAC’s Research Division and the BRAC University James P. Grant School of Public Health. In addition, he played a key role in creating the Mekong Basin Disease Surveillance Foundation (encompassing Cambodia, China, Laos, Myanmar, Thailand and Vietnam) and the Department of Public Health and Informatics at Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib Medical University in Bangladesh.

His many awards include the ‘Medical Excellence Award’ from Ronald McDonald House Charities, the ‘Innovator of the Year Award’ from Brigham Young University, and the ‘Outstanding Impact Award’ from the University Press Ltd. The Lancet published his profile in 2013 recognizing his global contributions. He serves on the Boards/committees of different organizations/initiative including BRAC University, London School of Economics, and UN Food and Agriculture Organization. He is the immediate past Chair of Asia-Pacific Action Alliance on Human Resources for Health. He is the current President of Dhaka University Statistics Department Alumni Association (DUSDAA).

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