Sasakawa Health Foundation (SHF) grew from a conversation between Ryoichi Sasakawa, founder of The Nippon Foundation, and Morizo Ishidate, the first person to synthesize a drug treatment for leprosy in Japan. They agreed to establish an organization that would promote science-based and internationally-coordinated solutions in order to reliably and sustainably ease the lives of persons affected by leprosy. The organization received official recognition and began operating under the name Sasakawa Memorial Health Foundation in May 1974.
The choice of SHF founders to use the word “health” in the organization’s name instead of “leprosy” reflected their belief that control of the disease should be managed by governments as a public health matter and patients should receive care as part of general health services. Rather than directly operating its own programs, SHF has strategically directed grant money through national ministries of health and other partners to build local capacities.
SHF’s public health approach continues today, with emphasis on the need to address both medical and social aspects of the disease. SHF supports greater involvement of persons affected by leprosy in policy decision-making and provision of diagnostic and care services. In addition, SHF leads a global movement to collect and share oral histories and material artifacts so that their experiences are not forgotten.
SHF is a Public Interest Corporation (kōeki zaidan hōjin) that makes grants and sponsors fellowships related to community health in Japan in addition to pursuing its ongoing commitment to a leprosy-free world.