School of Public Health student recognized for his work towards achieving equitable and quality health care

Avash Puri’s passion for public health is motivated by his lived experience and confidence in his ability to make a difference.

The Alberta Council for Global Cooperation (ACGC) has named School of Public Health student Avash Puri to its  Top 30 Under 30 list for 2021, recognizing his work to strengthen Nepal’s health system and reduce inequalities within its population.

ACGC is a coalition of organizations working towards local and global sustainable development. Its annual list recognizes young Alberta adults between the ages of 10 and 30 for their effort and impact in achieving the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals. (SDGs)

The SDGs were adopted by the United Nations Member States in 2015. They are a universal call to action to ensure all people enjoy peace, health and prosperity by 2030. Of the 17 goals, Puri is especially passionate about goal number three: Good Health and Well-Being.  

Born and raised in Gandaki Province of Nepal, Puri’s commitment stems from his lived experience. More than one-quarter of the Nepalese population lives below the poverty line, making accessing quality healthcare unattainable, especially in remote areas. 

“The country’s healthcare system struggles to meet the needs of the population,” he said. “I have lost loved ones to preventable causes and have seen survivors living in extreme poverty due to medical bankruptcy. This was my motivation to become involved in the Nepalese health sector.” 

Puri’s involvement began in 2014 while completing his undergraduate degree in public health at Nepal’s  Pokhara University when he and fellow students founded Save the Life of People. The non-profit group conducted rural school health programs raising awareness on basic health and sanitation. 

In 2015, a severe earthquake struck Nepal, killing about 9,000 people, injuring many more, and destroying health facilities. The disaster demonstrated the inequality Puri knew existed. 

“One event can disproportionately affect people due to so many social variables,” he explained. “I knew that wasn’t right, that the system was not working.”

After the earthquake, Puri volunteered in emergency camps to provide basic needs such as first aid and food. With funding from the United Nations World Food Programme, he also designed and implemented capacity-building training for female community health volunteers to sustain community-based malnutrition management in areas hard hit by the earthquake.

According to Puri, the current COVID-19 pandemic threatens to further weaken Nepal’s fragile health system. 

“The progress of our health care system is at risk of being reversed,” he said. “We need to take action now to reduce the inequalities, out-of-pocket expenses and the double burden of disease if Nepal is to achieve the government’s promise to attain SDG 3.8 of universal health coverage by 2030.” 

With less than 10 years to reach that goal, Puri has issued a call-to-action to the government of Nepal to: 

  • strengthen the existing primary health care system to reduce inequalities within and between Nepal’s provinces, 
  • expand health service packages with evidence-based services aligning with standards of health care quality, and expand implementation of the emerging national health insurance scheme; and
  • ensure health care is timely and accessible, and that point-of-care costs (for both public and private services) are minimized through strict regulations.

Puri is confident that an individual, such as himself, can impact change. It is the reason he is studying to earn a master of public health with a specialty in global health.

“The effort I make has the potential to make change for communities and entire populations,” he said. “We can’t underestimate the opportunities we have to do that.” 

The School of Public Health recognizes the Sustainable Development Goals are critical to global peace, prosperity and well-being. 


Stay in the know with news and updates from the School of Public Health. 

Sign up for Healthe-news



Puri with the female community health volunteers in Nepal