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Johns Hopkins Gets $108M Public Health Grant

India, Pakistan, Zambia and Honduras could get life-saving projects that boost maternal health, improve HIV treatment and reduce the incidence of malaria thanks to a $108-million federal grant to the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health's Center for Communications Programs.

The U.S. Agency for International Development awarded the Center the five-year grant for health communication projects in developing countries. The Center, which manages programs in more than 30 countries and in the US, will evaluate, design and implement projects in partnership with the countries' ministries of health and other local agencies, including advertising agencies.

Center Director Susan Krenn says the goal is to have a "population-level impact" by working across all levels, from government ministries to the health providers and community leaders. The center also wants to increase good health behaviors and to influence the social norms that impact those behaviors. The communications message is built into the campaign using various media, from the internet to radio.

In Uganda, for example, the Center coordinated a campaign about pediatric HIV that set up an online "toolkit" of resources and a National Health Hotline as well as instructions to local health providers via the radio. In the Union of South Africa, for another example, soccer's World Cup finale concert promoted the fight against malaria.

For this grant, Krenn says the projects will be chosen by the U.S. Agency, which has missions in 80 countries worldwide. Each mission can apply for projects. Project approval will determine in what countries the Center works, what it does and how much is spent on each project.

The $108-million Agency grant is one of the largest in the field of health communications. This is not the first time that the Center has won a grant of this size. In 2002, it won a five-year Agency grant for about the same amount of money for similar projects. That grant ended in 2007.

For the previous Agency grant, Krenn says funding went to an array of projects. The Center scripted an award-winning program on HIV prevention in the Union of South Africa; sponsored a game show in Ghana; and developed short films about family planning that were aired on Indian TV. 

For this award, the Center is collaborating with Management Sciences for Health and NetHope as well as specialized communication partners InterNews, Ogilvy Public Relations and Population Services International.

Krenn says that advances in communications technology open up new possibilities for projects. The South African show, for example, had a social media element in the form of a Facebook page and Twitter account. In India, the Center will try a pilot program that downloads the short films onto smart phones for distribution to local educators and community leaders.

“We want to understand what are best practices and how we can use them in our work,” says Krenn.

Source: Susan Krenn, Center for Communications Programs, Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health
Writer: Barbara Pash
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