Posted by: blog4globalhealth | 06/14/2011

COMMUNICATIONS AND THE CHANGING FUTURE OF GLOBAL HEALTH

The Global Health Council’s conference opens with a bang

Though the Global Health Council’s conference officially started today, Monday’s preliminary sessions were interesting and engaging. They were also packed to the brim – conference attendees were ready to jump in feet first to the offered workshops and satellite events, with some rooms even reaching capacity later in the day. I was lucky to attend three separate satellite events: one on the integration of health services and microfinance, one on EngenderHealth‘s SEED assessment model, and one focused on health system strengthening.

While all these topics fall under the greater umbrella of ‘global health,’ there’s another aspect that’s key for them: communication. Communication played a big role in the introductory sessions. Case studies of microfinance institutions show that they are an excellent vehicle to communicate public health information as well as information about the availability of services to their users.

The SEED assessment model hinges on the marriage of background research and interviews with those who are on the ground, assuring voices get heard. Health system strengthening might be an area that has been hurt by unclear communication. In fact, the session started off with participants unable to reach a consensus on an adequate definition of health system strengthening!

The Forum One social media workshop, run by Suzanne Rainey, Chris Rottler, and Angie Milton, was a more direct look into how communication is critical to global health. Every group during the breakout session had insight on how to effectively manage a mini-social media campaign surrounding a particular event – a poster session, a new publication, a panel, or a conference.

These strategies are extremely useful and helpful. However, the workshop also unmasked how much effort must be put into tailoring new media strategies to fit the needs of international communicators seeking to connect with.

When searching for strategic communication tactics for an audience in a developing location, new media seemsto fall short in terms of reach and scope. While social media is important from a domestic and organization-to-organization perspective, reaching a broader social network is a problem that is not fixed by a well managed Twitter or Facebook.

While not many sessions tackle communication in global health directly, I am looking forward to Wednesday’s sessions on the changing face of communication, as well as a session on how to connect with rural and hard-to-reach populations.

Katrina Overland is a research associate at Forum One.



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