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Cultivating Health Champions

In global health we hear the word champion often. Champions can open minds and doors for innovation. They mobilize communities and advocate for change. They can reduce stigmas by providing accurate information and putting faces to silent struggles and years of discrimination. Global health champions helped eradicate smallpox and have given voice and legitimacy to HIV/aids in communities across the world. Champions can be survivors with their own stories to tell, empathetic allies and opinion or community leaders, or even relatable fictional characters. A Cohrene study (2007 as cited in NCCMT, 2011) suggests that using champions is effective approach to promoting change.

According to The National Collaborating Center for Methods and Tools or NCCMT  (2011), “A champion is a charismatic advocate of a belief, practice, program, policy and/or technology.”

So how does one go about cultivating champions?

My answer is that there is not a single right answer. It depends on where you are, what you want to do and whose involved. Like anything you have to match the answer to the question. Do some formative research and decipher who is your audience and who and what influence and move them (see some of our previous blog posts about social marketing). Programs around the world depend on various types of champions: some engage communities and local people, some engage survivors and those with personal stories and struggles  and some engage or create opinion leaders both real and fictional. In  some situations champions can emerge on there own without being involved in a formal program or policy.  

For example the dark, humorous but incredibly insightful blog author “Allie’ of Hyperbole and a Half posted “Depression part 2” explaining her experience with depression and strangely enough a piece of corn under her fridge. This single blog post  began conversations about mental and depression by simply telling a story and explaining what it was like in a creating and captivating way.  It has 5000 comments from the day it was posted,  and is referenced by  numerous blogs and popular websites including jezebel and reddit.  If you need more proof simple google ” depression corn under the fridge”

For those of you who want a more theoretical or evidence based approach you can look into the “champion advocacy model” as outlined by NCCMT. This model looks at the likelihood that a idea or practice is adopted by the population of interest (relates to the diffusion of innovation model). Using a project by Family Health International (FHI) called ‘Network of Champions’ of (NOC which is detailed here), NCCMT argues that aligning individuals whom are already perceived as opinion leaders is more effective in promoting change than less influential individuals who are already aligned with your cause. They also conclude that:

  • The influence of a single influence may be limited to a certain level or sphere. Therefore multiple champions should be engaged at multiple ‘points of influence’ to maximize their combined influence while avoiding bottlenecks.
  • Any new advocacy effort demands a significant buy in and support from a wide range of stakeholders.
  • Incentives and supports for champions can increase likelihood of success, including formal recognition and acknowledgement, technical and financial supports including transport stipends, capacity-building opportunities and skills certificates” (FHI, 2011)
  • It is essential that strategies to prevent or address champion fatigue are developed and implemented. 
  • Any external inter-country networking of a various number of champion based initiatives should be established and maintained on an individual bases. 

In addition to these lessons, FHI’s own report on NOC also recommends that you match your champion to the specific activity you want them to do being mindful of their position, influence, time frames and feasibility. You should also encourage champions to build local support networks and internalize the program’s vision to avoid micro managing them (FHI, 2011). 

Good luck!


Image from:  


How to create a low-tech data visualization using 2 newspapers…

The staff over at PageOneX have created a low-tech way to create a bar chart comparing the amount of news to the amount of advertisement space for a print edition newspaper. The ratio they found (and show) for The New York Times on June 20th, 2013 is approximately 2:1! Check it out:


How to do this?

  1. Buy two copies of the same edition of one newspaper. You need two copies to be able to display both sides of every page. We used the exterior side of the papers from one copy, and the interior from the other copy.
  2. To be cautious, we  marked (draw a thin line) in the side of the paper that we were not going to use, to avoid having a piece of paper and not do not know which side is the one to use.
  3. Cut and separate Ads and News.
  4. Once you have the two piles with Ads and News, you have to make the bar charts. Keep’em straight and make them have the same width. To make the puzzle easier we put all the full (uncut) size pages together at the bottom of the  bars.

(Note: I did not write the above instructions, they are taken directly from the PageOneX blog – very clear and helpful!)

I think this is a great example of how communication and data visualization does not need to be complicated or high-tech to grab people’s attention or to be effective. This is a project that almost anyone could do, and gives us a great visual which has taken a lot of information and turned it into a form that can be read and understood in a quick glance.

PageOneX is an interesting new project which makes it easy to “track, code, and visualize major news stories based on the proportion of newspaper front pages that they take up.” From their about page, some context is given on how they came up with the concept:

PageOneX is an open source software tool designed to aid the coding, analysis, and visualization of front page newspaper coverage of major stories and media events. Newsrooms spend massive time and effort deciding what stories make it to the front page. Communication scholars have long used column-inches of print newspaper coverage as an important indicator of mass media attention. In the past, this approach involved obtaining copies of newspapers, measurement by hand (with a physical ruler), and manual input of measurements into a spreadsheet or database, followed by calculation and analysis. Some of these steps can now be automated, while others can be simplified; some can be easily shared by distributed teams of investigators working with a common dataset hosted online.” (Read more herePageOneX – About)

Hat tip to Chris Blattman (Assistant Professor of Political Science & International and Public Affairs at Columbia University) for re-posting this on his blog, which is also worth reading.

– Sarah Topps 2013

Appreciative Inquiry

Appreciative inquiry (AI) was created and developed by a doctoral student named David Cooperrider in 1987 with colleagues from Case Western University and Taos Institute. AI is an organization development process that focuses on strengths and positive aspects of an organization to facilitate change. It’s really focusing on what’s working exceptionally well and how do we create more of that? AI can provide a fresh new perspective and spur positive change by asking ”What’s working well?”, “What’s good about what you are currently doing?” instead of “What are the problems?”, “What’s wrong?”, “What needs to be fixed”?

“The world we have made as a result of the level of thinking we have done thus far creates problems we cannot solve at the same level of thinking at which we created them” – Albert Einstein

Screen Shot 2013-04-11 at 1.07.30 PM

Appreciative Inquiry


Gaddis, S. E. & Williams, C. (no date). See Yourself in 4-D: How to Use Appreciative Inquiry to Ignite Positive Change. Retrieved from:

– Lucy G.

Media Training 101


If you’re looking for a quick reference or crash course in media training, please feel free to use our powerpoint presentation (found in red text below) to assist you when handling the media!

Alison & Marina

Media Training 101

How to: Measure and Assess Impacts on Mental Well-being

Mental health and mental well-being are more than a lack of mental illness. Our mental well-being is impacted by a range of factors ranging from individual level psychology to wider societal determinants. In their Mental Well-being Impact Assessment (MWIA) Toolkit (2011), the National MWIA Collaborative outline an evidence-based model of metal well-being (as seen in the figure below).

MWIA’s Dynamic Model of Mental Well-being

(Figure 2.2, MWIA Collaborative, 2011,  p 16)   �

Using this model, the MWIA toolkit walks individuals and community stakeholders  through a screening and assessment process examining a proposal’s impacts on mental well-being.  It then allows stakeholders to develop monitoring indicators and make evidence-based recommendations aimed at maximizing the proposal’s positive impacts on mental well-being while minimizing its negative impacts.

For more information about Mental Well-being Impact Assessments see a pdf version of  my recent MWIA presentation or download the full MWIA toolkit from here.

-Chelsea H.

Presenting Health Data to Low Literacy Populations

Ever wondered how to effectively present your health materials to low literacy populations? Check out the following presentation for some useful tips and tools:

Health Data for Low Health Literacy

The purpose of this document is to get you to understand why health communication is important within the context of low health literacy. It addresses some key strategies that you can use to effectively communication health information to these kinds of populations. At the end of the presentation is a list of some valuable resources that you can further consult when preparing to present your materials.

Here are some additional helpful links on the topic: (a cool CDC public health image database!)

On a somewhat related note, here’s an interesting approach to providing a health message that is culturally appropriate:

– Misha B.

Mobile Health (mHealth)

Hi all,

Here is my presentation from today’s class on mobile health. Definitely check out the websites discussed at the end of the presentation for your own interest.

mHealth Presentation


N Sandhu

Things you should know about: Oral Rehydration Therapy

Hi all,

Here is our Oral Rehydration Therapy (ORT) slides.

Baindu and I actually re-drew some of the images in the slides to simplify them, so feel free to copy and print them off on a larger scale for your own personal use. Also, as this information/presentation is most likely to be used in the field be sure to make it culturally appropriate to whichever audience you’re working with.

Remember, ORT can be useful in many situations. Baindu and I focused on dehydration as a leading factor, but contaminated water/food sources which causes diarrhea can also require the use of ORT.

ORT Presentation

(abrubach, 2013, bkosia, 2013)

How to do HIA?

Hello Colleagues,

Here is my presentation on How to do HIA?

Do not forget  to check out the resources in the last slide.

Hope it was helpful in giving a basic idea of such a vast and interesting topic.



How to do HIA_Virendra

How-To: Ethical Imagery

This presentation introduces the issue of ethical imagery, presents the complexities related to creating ethical and effective communication tools, and provides an alternative approach organizations can use to guide the creation of communication tools proposed by the Canadian Council for International Co-operation (CCIC) .

How-To_Ethical Imagery Feb 7

Presented by Gaju Karekezi, February 7, 2013.