Challenging assumptions in global health research
If you don't get the right insights from the beginning, even the most brilliant and creative campaign will fall flat. - Gael O'Sullivan
To produce campaigns and interventions that resonate and evoke change within communities, you have to go deeper.
There's an epidemic of "short-term mindset" plaguing many of the worlds social systems today, from business cycles to human health interventions. Researchers value quick insights and quick action. Social programs are funded in five-year cycles. But what if your ultimate goal it to affect long-term change?
Change moves slowly through cultures and social groups, a truth that often requires a much deeper understanding than many marketers, policy agents, and change makers are willing to pursue. While no professionals would likely profess to skipping the step of audience analysis, much of this research is designed around assumptions about the target audience and executed quickly. A focus group, a survey, some background health or consumption data perhaps.
Yet as social marketer and researcher Gael O'Sullivan knows all too well, a deeper understanding of the realities of communities is severely needed when trying to affect change. In this episode, O'Sullivan discusses her experience combating assumptions to health crises around the world, and explains why she integrates deeper formative research methods such as ethnography into work aimed at solving the world's most pressing public health issues.
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About Gael O'Sullivan
Gael O’Sullivan, MBA, has over 25 years of experience applying health communication and social and commercial marketing skills to projects addressing pandemic threats in addition to projects focused on family planning, reproductive health, HIV/AIDS, tobacco control and prevention, chronic disease prevention, and child health in the United States and worldwide. As Abt Associates’ Senior Social and Behavior Change (SBC) Technical Advisor, she leads the SBC technical segment for Abt’s International Health Division. Ms. O’Sullivan has led large, multi-year USAID health communication projects and research activities with decentralized teams across three continents, including Africa. To boost local SBC capacity, Ms. O’Sullivan led a team of Abt staff to create a two-day introductory workshop on SBC; subsequently the team adapted the course into an innovative eLearning product. Ms. O’Sullivan is
Ms. O’Sullivan is lead technical advisor to Abt’s $30 million USAID-funded cooperative agreement to increase demand for family planning and reproductive health services in Jordan. She also led the development of national communication strategies to prevent and mitigate HIV/AIDS in Zimbabwe, Benin and Bhutan, and contributed to national communication strategies on safe drinking water, hygiene and sanitation in Pakistan, and malaria in Zimbabwe. Ms. O’Sullivan has worked extensively in Albania, Armenia, Bangladesh, Barbados, Bhutan, Cameroon, Ethiopia, Georgia, Guinea, India, Jordan, Kenya, Laos, Madagascar, Malawi, Mali, Morocco, Nepal, Pakistan, Philippines, Russia, Rwanda, Senegal, South Africa, Tanzania, Thailand, Togo, Trinidad and Tobago, Tunisia, Uganda, Zambia, Zimbabwe, and Vietnam. She has an MBA from George Washington University, a B.S. degree in French from Georgetown University, and has lived in Togo and Switzerland.