Achieving Global Health Impact through Strategic Communications



(L to R) Richard Hatzfeld, Sabin Vaccine Institute; David Harris, independent creative consultant; Elizabeth Bass, Alan Alda Center for Communicating Science

In a world where politics, ideology and values sometimes outweigh evidence, how can global health professionals better communicate what they do in order to achieve impact?  Global Network’s Managing Director, Dr. Neeraj Mistry, addressed this question at last week’s American Society for Tropical Medicine and Hygiene (ASTMH) Annual Meeting. His panel discussion, titled “Using Communications to Elevate Neglected Tropical Diseases as a Policy Priority,” featured insights from Richard Hatzfeld, communications director for the Sabin Vaccine Institute; David Harris, an independent creative consultant who helped develop the ideas behind the END7 campaign; and Elizabeth Bass, director of the Alan Alda Center for Communicating Science.

ARK_8895Elizabeth began by stressing the importance of knowing your audience and goals. While some stakeholders, including policy makers, may be familiar with your issue, it is important to understand where they are coming from so messaging can be adjusted accordingly. She also emphasized the importance of connecting with people. Each and every one of us has a unique background – whether we’re a cancer survivor, an animal lover, a mother or an athlete. If your audience knows more about who you are as a person, they are more likely to trust you and take what you say seriously, she said. Lastly, Elizabeth clued the audience in on what she sees as the “wonder drug” of communications: storytelling. While statistics can cause an audience’s eyes to glaze over, stories have the power to grab an audience’s interest, evoke emotion and make people care.

Further emphasizing the importance of storytelling, David Harris discussed creative communication campaigns that have worked. Every day, our brains are inundated with hundreds of advertising messages – so an engaging and creative story is necessary to stand out and cut through the noise. He first used the example of the Wise Child Trust – a largely unknown charity (at the time) that is working to end child trafficking. Through David’s innovative marketing campaign, happy and healthy school children in the UK were encouraged to write their own story about love, hope or friendship. These stories stood in stark contrast to the terrible stories of trafficked children. The stories of the school children were compiled into a book and were then sold to parents and the community –with all proceeds going towards Wise Child Trust. This campaign was hugely successful and used the power of storytelling to raise an unprecedented amount of awareness and funds for Wise Child Trust.


David also discussed the Global Network’s END7 campaign and its “How to Shock a Celebrity” video which has gained more than 600,000 views. The concept of “END7” has been effective, explained David, because of its specific and time-bound goal: End 7 neglected tropical diseases by 2020. The campaign’s tagline, “together we can see the end,” is inclusive and encourages everyone to be a part of the solution. In addition, he said, the campaign has a strong call to action – donate just 50 cents to treat and protect one child. was hugely successful and used the power of storytelling to raise an unprecedented amount of awareness and funds for Wise Child Trust.

ARK_8914Next, Richard provided an overview of a communications campaign in India which will raise awareness of an upcoming mass drug administration for lymphatic filariasis (LF). He discussed the unique challenges of the campaign, which include messaging to diverse audiences, encouraging compliance and reaching media dark areas without access to television or radio. Richard emphasized that an effective communications campaign can overcome these issues and support the Indian government in their effort to eliminate LF by 2015.

The remarks provided by Neeraj, Elizabeth, David and Richard drew needed attention to the importance of communications and storytelling in the field of global health. Through effective and smart communications, the global health community can have an even bigger impact on the world’s most vulnerable communities.

IMA Tanzania a Key Player in Massive National Vaccine and MDA Campaign


Image from IMA World Health

Image from IMA World Health

The Global Network for Neglected Tropical Diseases is happy to share news from IMA World Health. A first of its kind for Tanzania, the national co-implemented immunization and mass drug administration strengthened the country’s integrated efforts to control and eliminate neglected tropical diseases. 

On Saturday, October 18, IMA World Health participated in a special event in Dodoma, Tanzania, to launch the 2014 national co-implemented immunization and mass drug administration (MDA) campaign to protect 21 million children against measles, rubella and neglected tropical diseases (NTDs). One of the largest public health intervention efforts ever staged in Tanzania, the 2014 campaign will run from October 18-24.

The annual event was convened and attended by the Government of Tanzania, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), the World Health Organization (WHO), Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, and numerous other partners.

For the past four years, IMA has been MDA for NTDs in Tanzania through the USAID-funded ENVISION Project, led by RTI International. With over $5 million in annual support, IMA has distributed preventive treatment to more than 14 million people across 9 regions of Tanzania, as well as trained 5,000 health workers and over 10,000 community volunteers.

Jim Cox, Country Director for IMA Tanzania, commented in a speech at the October 18 event, “As IMA celebrates its 20th anniversary in Tanzania… we are proud to be part of this first-ever joint NTD and immunization campaign, which lays the groundwork for healthy communities throughout Tanzania.”

IMA works with the Tanzania Ministry of Health and Social Welfare (MOHSW) to support implementation of the integrated five-disease NTD control program targeting onchocerciasis, schistosomiasis, trachoma, LF, and STH using MDA in the community and schools.

Photo from IMA World Health

Introducing END7′s October Student of the Month, Meghna Purkayastha



Each month, END7 honors one student who has made a significant contribution to our growing movement of student advocates dedicated to seeing the end of NTDs. We are very proud to introduce our October Student of the Month, Meghna Purkayastha, a junior at Smith College. Meghna, a biology major with a minor in economics, shares:

“I learned of END7 from a talk hosted by my research professor at Smith, Dr. Steve Williams. He introduced Dr. Peter Hotez who discussed the microbiology of neglected tropical diseases and the work of the END7 campaign. Currently, I am studying the NTD lymphatic filariasis in my research lab with Dr. Williams. We are looking at plant-based anti-parasitic compounds to fight the disease. I believe public and global health are at the forefront of the economic, political, and social issues of the developing world. As an active member of the Student Government Association at Smith, I hope to educate young activists and students in my community about the END7 campaign.

“I was recently invited to speak at an event hosted by EKTA, a South Asian student group on campus. At Mehndi Night 2014, I presented the END7 goals, and since Mehndi Night was the day before the Article 25 Day of Action, I also discussed the importance of END7’s collaboration with the Article 25 campaign to raise awareness about the right to health included in Article 25 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. I showed END7’s Mission in a Minute video, and discussed the UN Sustainable Development Goals. I was able to raise about $130 in donations in just five minutes! I took a picture of the crowd and sent it to the Article 25 activists, and even set up a Photo Booth for the audience to stand in front of that stated “Article 25.” Mehndi Night had multiple performances and food from South Asia that featured a dance performance by my dance team SC Masti! I was excited to combine my two passions: educating others about END7, and dance! I thought presenting END7 at this event was pertinent because of the magnitude of NTDs in South Asia. I look forward to continue educating my peers about END7 in the future.”

Meghna’s collaboration with EKTA for Mehndi Night is a great example of the partnerships needed to drive the effort against NTDs forward. We are excited to see students like Meghna linking the END7 campaign to students groups in their university communities, and we are so grateful for the support of the Smith community!

We are are excited to see our community of student supporters like Meghna continue to grow. If you are ready to get your school involved in END7’s work, contact student coordinator Emily on Facebook or at to learn how you can get started!

#IAmTropMed: Flipping the Microscope to Tell a New Set of Stories


This blog post was originally published on Making Malaria History. 

Anyone working in global health will say the same thing: the people impacted by our work is the reason we do what we do. Underlying medical vocabulary, data spreadsheets, and peer-reviewed journals are millions of stories, people whose lives were saved and improved thanks to creative and dedicated minds.

Indeed, researchers and program implementers should be quick to celebrate these successes. But there is another equally important set of stories that is often overlooked: the stories of the researchers themselves.

This year at the American Society for Tropical Medicine and Hygiene (ASTMH) Annual Meeting, we’re flipping the microscope to hear from the meeting participants, the dedicated professionals behind the scenes: Why did you decide to go into your respective fields? What gets you out of bed and into the lab/field every morning? What promising innovation are you most excited about? What do you like to do for fun?

Don’t be shy. Participation is easy:

1. Take a photo of yourself holding a sign that says “#IAmTropMed.” You can take one in advance, or take advantage of the photo booth next to the registration area at the conference.

2. Share the photo on your organizational or personal Twitter or Facebook profile using the hashtag #IAmTropMed during the week of the ASTMH Annual Meeting.

3. Include a caption that highlights the reason you are involved in this work. Example: Because malaria elimination is the only long-term goal.

4. In your post, you can also link to more information: a blog or webpage about your work, journal articles, or details on a session or symposium you are hosting at the ASTMH Annual Meeting.

@Global_Network will be tweeting and participating in next week’s ASTMH meeting. Stay tuned for tweets and stories! We encourage you to share your own using #IAmTropMed too!