Global Health Communication (GHC) began in 2000 when Joseph Petraglia took a position as visiting scientist at the US Centers for Disease Control (CDC). Having worked in academia for many years as a PhD in Cognitive Science and Rhetoric, Joseph’s role at the CDC would bring practical applications for his research into the arena of public health. In particular, Joseph became interested in the use of rhetoric and persuasion for changing health behavior. He was involved early on in the CDC’s behavioral intervention work with HIV/AIDS epidemics in Africa. This experience lead to the realization that there was a great need for technical assistance to a wide range of programs wanting to implement behavior change activities, and Joseph decided to start his own company.
Martha Scherzer’s international public health work started in 1996 in Somalia, South Sudan, and Kenya. In 2003 she began working for CDC in Southeast Asia on HIV prevention programs, including behavior change. She and Joseph joined forces on a cross-border project she designed between Thailand and the Lao PDR and together they developed the RAMP approach. Recognizing the value of her field experience and understanding of RAMP as a unique tool for behavior change, Joseph asked Martha to bring her expertise to GHC with the goal of implementing RAMP in a variety of new contexts.
The spirit of GHC’s approach is that public health and development experts cannot assume they know what people need until they know from the target populations themselves why they behave the way they do. GHC is less interested in “the numbers of people trained” and “exposed to messages,” than in how such messages are perceived or integrated and to what extent they are culturally relevant at the individual and societal levels. That is why we say that GHC develops tools and implements activities that “bring the public into public health.” Ours is a people-oriented approach, which understands that an individual’s health behavior is part of a complex web of influences, relationships, and outside forces daily renewed and negotiated.
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