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Former First Lady Rosalynn Carter honored by World Health Organization for mental health advocacy

She was one of three recipients honored with this award.

ATLANTA — Former U.S. First Lady Rosalynn Carter is adding another accolade to her list of achievements. 

She was recognized by the World Health Organization (WHO) for 50 years of leadership to help improve access to health care for people with mental and substance use issues.

During a virtual ceremony at the opening of the 74th World Health Assembly, WHO Director-General Dr. Tedros presented Carter with an Award for Global Health in recognition of her contributions to advancing global health. 

She was one of three recipients honored with this award during the opening remarks.

In a pre-recorded video, Carter Center Board of Trustees Chairperson Jason J. Carter, grandson to Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter, read a letter from the former First Lady and accepted the award on her behalf. 

“The World Health Organization’s Director-General’s award for global health is a great honor celebrating my grandmother’s 50 years of advocacy. I’ll note that when she spoke to the Medical Society of the WHO in May of 1979, she become the first sitting first lady of the United States to address the members of the WHO," the statement said.

"It was a groundbreaking event as a first lady and groundbreaking for mental health, because on that day she stated that health is a human right and that you cannot have true health without recognizing mental health as a crucial component," the statement reads.

In a letter that Jason Carter read from Rosalynn Carter, she said: “The Director-General’s award for global health is especially meaningful to me in light of the Carter Center’s long partnership with WHO to eradicate debilitating neglected tropical diseases and to promote the inclusion of mental health as an integral part of overall well-being."

"My hope is that this is the moment when all nations will make behavioral health a priority and create quality systems of care that are equitably delivered. I’ve been waiting a long time to see this happen," she added. "I urge all of you attending to use your influence and talent to ensure that it does.”