Section Connection An insider's view of the APHA international health section

"All roads lead to universal coverage. This will be my central priority. At present, only about a half of the world's people have access to health care without impoverishment. This needs to improve dramatically."

Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, new head of the WHO

Issue 4 - July 2017

In This Issue:

  • IH Section Happenings
  • Meet Your Leadership
  • Explore IH Connect
  • Getting to Know APHA
  • IH Conversations


  • Theresa Majeski - Contributing Editor-in-Chief
  • William Rosa - Associate Editor

IH Section Happenings

This section highlights the work the IH Section is doing to advance global health.

By Laura Altobelli, Chair, International Health Section

With contributions from Theresa Majeski

As you can imagine, the US funding of global health-related initiatives is in a precarious position at the moment. The IH Section has been involved in many policy-level actions and working within the APHA framework to advance global health priorities. These activities cannot occur without the dedicated work of our member volunteers.

Recent activities:

-- IH submitted four Policy Statement Proposals to the APHA Joint Policy Committee for review and comments.

-- An IH Section member article was published in the APHA e-newsletter, on the topic of health workers and hospitals under attack in Syria.

-- The IH Section policy approved by the Governing Council in 2016 on opposition to immigration policies that require HIV testing was adapted and approved by the World Federation of Public Health Associations at their April 2017 meeting in Melbourne.

-- IH Connect has been very active with re-publication of selected APHA Press Releases on topics such as the US withdrawal from the Paris Agreement, US budget cuts for foreign assistance, firing of the US Surgeon General, and many other news and opinions. IH Section members are encouraged to sign up to receive the blog in their inbox. Editor's note: Signing up to receive the blog doesn't mean you'll get lots of emails per day. You receive an email when a new post is added, which occurs a couple of times per week.

-- Letter was sent to APHA Executive Director, Georges Benjamin, by the IH Section chair in support of the APHA press release to of March 17, 2017 entitled, President's budget would devastate vital public health programs, says APHA.

-- Letter was sent to APHA Executive Director, Georges Benjamin, by the IH Section chair encouraging him to include on the Annual Meeting program a presentation by Dr. Jaime Breilh from Ecuador on “The 4 “S's" of life and Sumak Kawsay: an Andean academic-people’s approach to stemming climate change.” (we were advised that this request could not be fulfilled)

-- The Communications Committee did a needs assessment and membership engagement survey of IH Section members. The Section is using these data to make programmatic decisions to give you what you asked for and make your IH Section membership valuable to you. Find the results of the survey here. Editor's note: We welcome comments and feedback at any time. The survey is a useful tool to gauge progress on whether our initiatives are having the intended effect, but if you have other ideas or suggestions for things we should be doing, please let us know. You can find our contact information on the blog here.

-- We are currently in the process of updating the IH Section Manual, last updated in 2010. The process is being led by the Section Chair and Communications Chair, with input from all committee and working group chairs.

-- A team of IH leadership members will be working this summer on drafting an update of the IH Section strategic plan.

Meet Your Leadership

Mark Strand - Fundraising Committee Co-Chair

By Theresa Majeski

Mark Strand, Fundraising Committee Co-Chair

Tell us a bit about yourself and how you got into global health

I went to China with the non-profit organization Evergreen to help the public health bureau establish sustainable primary healthcare systems. This involved research, and program delivery. I was there 17 years.

Some photos of Mark during his time working in China.

What does the Fundraising Committee do?

Our committee rallies our section leaders to provide donations to supplement our budget in order to provide a good program of meetings, socials, awards events, and special sessions.

What kind of commitment is required for members on this committee?

Being part of this working group allows one to understand the resources in time and money needed to present a good program at the annual meeting. By asking people to give money to support a cause, you have to believe in it, and be able to convey your belief to others. This is a behind-the-scenes role, but satisfying when the program is successfully completed.

How can members be more involved with the Fundraising Committee?

Members can email me if they want to get involved:

Anything else readers should know?

We want students and new section members to be able to enjoy the programs of the International Health section, including some meals and snacks, free of charge. In order to do this we in the leadership team need to volunteer our time, talent and treasure to make it happen.

Editor's Note: Fundraising is an integral part of many non-profits. Even if you don't want a job in fundraising, it is a worthwhile skill to have if you plan on ever working for a global health non-profit. It is a skill that many people aren't able to obtain on their own or through school, so volunteering for the Fundraising Committee is a great way to get this real-world experience to put on your resume. Global health is a competitive career path, use your membership in the IH Section to gain skills to set yourself apart from the thousands of other applicants with your same university degree.

Theresa Majeski - Mentoring Committee Chair
Theresa Majeski, Mentoring Committee Chair

Tell us a bit about yourself and how you got into global health

I started out thinking I wanted to be a physician, and my love of science lead me to an undergraduate degree in Microbiology. After working a couple years at the bench, I realized this wasn’t the life for me and decided to finally pursue medicine. I wanted to do a dual-degree, adding on an MPH to my medical degree, however when I got through the medical school interview process and got accepted, it occurred to me that I didn’t need to be a physician to do the global health work I wanted to do. And the years of schooling (and debt) probably wouldn't be worth it. So I pursued only my MPH instead of obtaining a dual-degree. I graduated a couple years ago and since then I have been working in domestic public health for the federal government. You could say I don’t have true “global health” experience, and you’d be right. But that’s why I am actively involved in the IH Section, to keep myself in the global health arena and to stay aware of the new issues and developments.

Photos of public health signs during Theresa's visit to Rio de Janeiro for the 2016 Olympics

What does the Mentoring Committee do?

The Mentoring Committee is responsible for coordinating the new Global Health Mentoring Program that the IH Section is undertaking. The Program is in Round 2 of a pilot phase, which will conclude this September.

What benefits do members of your committee receive?

As members of the Mentoring Committee, volunteers are assigned roles as Steering Committee members. The Steering Committee is responsible for evaluating the mentee applications and making recommendations about which applicants should be accepted into the program. Steering Committee members also have the opportunity to stay involved in the Mentoring Program throughout the year as I anticipate creating a bit more guided facilitation for the mentors and mentees during the next cohort. We welcome all members to get involved, the only requirement is that you can’t be a Steering Committee member while also applying to be a mentor/mentee for that same cohort.

How can members learn more about the Mentoring Committee?

Check out the Global Health Mentoring Program webpage and email me at

Anything else readers should know?

Being a member of the Steering Committee can be a time-limited commitment. We mainly need folks during the November/December time period when we’re evaluating applicants and making matches. We welcome continued involvement throughout the year from our Steering Committee members, but this position can be great option for folks who may not have enough time to devote to a year-round commitment.

"Only a life lived for others is a life worthwhile."

Albert Einstein

Explore IH Connect

By Jean Armas

Greetings from the Communications Committee!

We recently launched our new and improved website, IH Connect, the unofficial home of the American Public Health Association’s International Health Section. The IH Connect website contains information about the Section’s vision and mission, leadership, and major activities, and it links to information and documents about the Section’s history and operations. It also serves as a platform for Section members to share opinion pieces, relevant news to the Section and the field of global health, and other items of interest. We encourage you to visit our website and subscribe to get notified by email when there is new content.

Every edition of Section Connection will now feature a few announcements and articles from the IH Connect website.

IH Connect Spotlight

This March, IH Connect featured a three-part series on global health career insights called: Lessons on the job market, how to crack it, and what to do once you’re in

1) Five important business lessons I learned from developing country professionals by Sharon Rudy, IH Section Member and Guest Blogger

2) Five sobering job search lessons I learned from analyzing the global health job market by Jessica Keralis

3) Five practical career development suggestions to position yourself for the global health profession by Jean Armas

Analysis and Commentary by Section Bloggers

The latest opinions and insights from our regular contributors:

2017 Zika Update: A Synopsis by Sophia Anyatonwu

What’s next for US global health funding? by Jean Armas

News Round-Ups

Our bi-weekly news round-ups, written by Abbhi Rajagopal and Steven Sur, provide readers with a glimpse of what’s happening in the global health world in the areas of politics, technology, environmental health, maternal and child health, human rights and more.

Read our past news round-ups here.

Interested in Volunteering for IH Connect?

IH Connect is run by a dedicated group of IH section volunteers. If you would like more information about volunteering as a guest blogger, a regular blog contributor, or a special projects volunteer, please contact us at or click here.

Getting to Know APHA

This section focuses on introducing you to APHA as a broader organization, how the IH Section works with other APHA Sections, and how to make the most out of your APHA membership.

By Jeanie Holt

The Delaware Public Health Association (DPHA) is active in global health in a variety of ways. Several of the members are active in the APHA International Health section, including Omar Khan MD MHS, Chair of the DPHA Council and past-chair of APHA’s International Health section. Many DPHA members also work internationally, and regularly present on international health research at APHA’s Annual Meetings.

In addition to APHA-national- international level activities, the Delaware affiliate organizes a number of global health events in Delaware. These bring together learners, practitioners, educators and administrators. For the size of the affiliate DPHA has one of the most robust educational arrays of GH offerings across APHA.

The DPHA supports the monthly Global Health Lecture series, which also serves as the educational foundation for the Global Health Curriculum at Christiana Care, the state’s largest health system. Topics have included: Global Health—Why Should I Care, Migrant and Seasonal Agricultural Workers Program—Health for the Hands that Feed Us, Cardiovascular Medical and Surgical Care in Vietnam, and Sustainable Solutions to Maternal Child Health Disparities. Physicians for Human Rights, and HIV Care are among the interesting topics that will be presented during the rest of this year. Contact Tim Gibbs ( or Dr. Omar Khan ( for more info.

In addition to the monthly lectures, DPHA, in collaboration with the Delaware Academy of Medicine hosts several annual events. The yearly banquet frequently features a speaker with a global health interest. The Holloway Infectious Disease Syposium also generally invites a global health speaker as the keynote. Dr. Khan says of the Delaware Public Health Association, “Our commitment to our public health community is broad and deep. We do not draw artificial borders, either geographic or disciplinary. We espouse a holistic approach where local-community- global health are part of the organic continuum of public health.”

"Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It's not."

The Lorax (Dr. Seuss children's book character talking about saving the environment)

IH Conversations

This section profiles various members in global health to highlight their careers and learn about how they got into global health.

Featuring: Ngozi Mercy Ajuonu

By Shanna Livermore

Ngozi Mercy Ajuonu, founder of Rural Women Foundation

I spoke with Ngozi Mercy Ajuonu, simply known as Mercy, the Executive Director and Founder of the Rural Women Foundation, Nigeria.

Mercy’s life began as a child in rural Nigeria and she has gone on to a successful career, founded The Rural Women Foundation, and holds 4 masters degrees. Mercy is currently pursuing a doctorate in public health (DrPH) at Claremont Graduate University.

Tell our readers a bit about the Rural Women Foundation.

I founded the Rural Women Foundation (RWF) in 1997 as a non-profit, non-governmental and non-political voluntary organization, established as a foundation whose objective is to raise the development potential of the rural poor in Nigeria to enable them lead an adequate and self-sustainable life in the rural society. RWF also fosters partnership and collaboration between and amongst its communities through its various activities on HIV/AIDS. With its focus on community development, the foundation has a defined target group: rural women, the girl-child, women living with HIV/AIDS, out of school youth, orphans, etc. The Foundation acts as a "voice" for the rural women and also contributes in the areas of gender inequality and to promote income generating activities for the rural women.

Ngozi Mercy Ajuonu and community members at the opening of the newest Rural Women Foundation project, an orphanage

What is the mission of The Rural Women Foundation?

The foundation’s mission is to improve the lives of women and children in local communities through education, health, economic empowerment and social amenities.

This is made possible through:

  • Training on income generating activities
  • Ensuring economic self-reliance and empowerment for the rural poor
  • Training on innovative techniques in agriculture and cottage industries
  • Creating appropriate educational and hygienic infrastructure
  • Constructing appropriate water and sanitation infrastructure
  • Ensuring the creation and maintenance of a revolving loan scheme for construction of independent economic base
  • Rural health provision and development
  • Provision of legal support for the rural women

Can you please tell us a bit about your current projects?

We are constantly working on many new projects and actively seeking funding for others. Some of our projects include water and sanitation projects, which focus on drilling boreholes in communities lacking water and handwashing campaigns. We have several projects funded by the World Bank including an HIV/AIDS prevention project.

However, our latest endeavor at the Rural Women’s Foundation and a project particularly close to my heart is the Ukpo Orphanage. RWF Nigeria in close collaboration with Ukpo community gatekeepers and other community members planned in 2010 to set up a Centre in Ukpo which will serve as the meeting point for all community members young and old. Funding generated during the fundraising event organized by RWF in August 2010 was set aside for the construction of a multipurpose complex in Ukpo. In 2015, RWF Nigeria began the construction of the main community Centre complex. In addition to a doctor's post and a community library, this Centre will also organize other activities that would bring all community members together.

Featuring: Gretchen Berggren and David Newberry

By Eden Blackwell

Gretchen Berggren and David Newberry have made global health their lives’ work for more than five decades. After over 20 years as friends and colleagues, they recently married and continue to serve the cause of international health together. The following is a summary of Gretchen and David’s responses to questions about the state of global health and lessons from their experiences in the field.

David Newberry and Gretchen Berggren

Gretchen first trained as a physician and served as a medical missionary in the Congo. She went on to develop community-based, impact-oriented primary healthcare programs, and taught community health at the Harvard School of Public Health for 25 years. Later, with Save the Children, she worked in child survival programs. Most recently she has concentrated on community-based methods for prevention and treatment of malnutrition including the "Positive Deviance/Hearth Method" currently used in 26 countries.

David is an epidemiologist who began tracking sexually transmitted diseases for the CDC in the 1960s before becoming a respected figure in the eradication of major communicable diseases including smallpox, Guinea worm, and polio. His work with the CDC, USAID, and WHO has led him to field assignments in 35 countries including China where he worked in oral rehydration therapy programs.

While their work has had limited overlap, aspects of their professional and personal experiences in the field are similar including religion, respect for local wisdom, and raising families oversees.

Family and Faith

The choice to raise children abroad had an significant impact on their children as adults and for some shaped their own work choices as a missionary, infectious disease specialist, and a teacher specializing in language learning methods. Once, David gave each of his five children a small allowance equal to the amount that most local African children would have to live on for one week. Each child has expressed appreciation for that experience, drawing on it to understand and appreciate other cultures.

Living and working as a medical missionary for five years during the early days of independence in the Congo, Gretchen was often assisted by both Catholic and Protestant professional health workers. She credits the faith of her Congolese colleagues for keeping her afloat spiritually after losing a child there. David, a Roman Catholic, has worked with several different religious entities, including Muslims, and has kept the "Fast of Ramadan" with them. His own faith remains a guiding light and personal compass.

Local wisdom

The successes of both experts have been fed by a practice of respecting local customs and languages, and reaching out to all people to affect behavioral change, not just these who show up at clinics. When working in low-income countries, they advise, “Use local traditions and language and cultural habits to promote better health behaviors, often through the work and advice of local community health workers. Always ask before acting!”

David discovered that adding to the traditional Hausa greeting (used everywhere in northern Nigeria and Ghana involving a series of polite questions about family, etc.) one could add the question: "And have you filtered your water today?" This phrase caught on and contributed to the success of the program to fight and, eventually, to eradicate Guinea worm. Similarly, Gretchen observed the customary routines of Haitian women in order to improve immunization rates and reduce deaths of newborns from tetanus by immunizing women in market places rather than only in clinics or assembly posts.

Communication should include everyone

Including intervention recipients in the “score keeping” of an intervention helps to foster behavior change. Gretchen noted that ongoing reporting of births and deaths by community workers who then review the information with locals, health workers, and their leaders, is valuable to help locals gain an understanding of major causes of disease and then decide to adopt behaviors that save lives. For example, when deaths from diarrhea begin to disappear with better breast-feeding practices and better hygiene practices, everyone can take notice at the decrease in diarrheal deaths and community discussions can ensue. Also, there is an increasing need for education of the men in most villages to recognize normal and abnormal conditions in pregnancy and childbirth, and to be empowered to act appropriately.

An "accounting and accountable" method let people know that what is going on is essential. Leaders in a given community should pay better attention along with the people being informed. Often the data is reported to program staff and superiors but the local people never see it, nor do they or get a chance to discuss it. This advice is not restricted to the community-level. There is increasing recognition of malaria as a “killer.” However, the fact needs renewed recognition at all levels—governmental, organizational and, above all, community.

The work continues

As experts who have not only observed the changes of global health as a field, David and Gretchen have helped to shape it by developing methods and tools to ensure lasting legacies of health improvements through community development and behavioral change, as well as interventions that leave no one out. Inspiringly, they continue to focus on the pressing issues of the present.

For Gretchen, that includes the equitable distribution of health services so that all mothers and children are reached by interventions. Community mapping, house-numbering and door-to door registration of mothers and children are tools she finds support this work.

True to his epidemiological roots, David is concerned with three main issues: the reduction in individual participation in immunization programs despite an increasing number of antigens available; the increasing rate of sexually transmitted diseases; and the increasing number of prescription-related deaths in the United States. The failure to control the spread of West Nile fever in the United States and the spread of Zika virus on an international basis, also raise concerns for him.

David and Gretchen plan to make their home in Tucker, Georgia, near Atlanta, and near family and many of David's former colleagues from CDC. We offer them our best wishes for a happy life together.

Connect with us:

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Background photo credits, in order: Martine Perret/UNMEER, Lindsay Mgbor/Department for International Development, Martine Perret/UNMEER, Lindsay Mgbor/Department for International Development, Lindsay Mgbor/Department for International Development, Chhor Sokunthea/World Bank, Martine Perret/UNMEER

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