Anuradha Gupta is a global health leader whose work has saved the lives of millions of children in communities around the world. As Deputy CEO of Gavi, the global vaccine alliance, she led the push to identify ‘zero-dose’ children, aiming to ensure all children have access to critical immunisation and no one is left behind. Her leadership has resulted in 81% of children now having access to immunisation in Gavi-supported countries, transforming healthcare, social and economic opportunity in thousands of low-income communities.
Ms Gupta’s passion for healthcare was sparked at a young age, when she imagined becoming a doctor and having the chance to heal the pain of others. But her life took a different path and when she graduated in the 1980s, she began her career in the Indian Administrative Services, serving her country in a range of public sector roles spanning education, women and child development, housing and infrastructure, finance and social justice. Ten years into her service, she spent a year in Australia, undertaking a Master of Business Administration at the University of Wollongong, before returning to India, determined to apply her skills to help the more than 350 million people facing extreme poverty.
Over the following two decades, Ms Gupta led large-scale, high impact public service projects; from grassroots work in remote provinces to identify opportunities for entrepreneurship, micro-finance and capacity-building to lift communities, particularly women, out of poverty and towards self-reliance; to national projects driving improved nutrition, education and health. In 2010, she was appointed to the Federal Ministry of Health. There she led India’s flagship, and the world’s largest public health programme, the National HealthMission, to improve access to affordable healthcare for over one billion people living in both rural and urban areas across the world’s second-most populous country.
It was in this role that Ms Gupta redefined the future of public health in India, strengthening and integrating health systems and leading the globally acclaimed polio eradication program. Her direction to refocus efforts of the polio vaccination programme on the children being missed, while securing investment to roll out a more effective vaccine, saw a major turning point in the country’s battle to eradicate the virus, and in 2014, the World Health Organisation declared India polio free.
In 2015, Ms Gupta was named one of “300 Women Leaders in Global Health” by the Global Health Centre of the Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies and in 2021, she received the University of Wollongong Alumni Award for Social Impact. She has also received the highest civilian award for public service from the President of the Democratic Republi of the Congo and the Prime Minister’s Award in Laos.
Ms Gupta remains a passionate and influential advocate of women, young girls and children, and has contributed towards a number of important global health initiatives, centred on improving the health and wellbeing of women and children. All the while, her legacy continues to grow with lives saved everyday as a result of her leadership and dedication, showing the impact just one person can have when determined to make a difference.
See Anuradha’s response here to being named the Awardee of the Asia Impact Award for 2022.