iSMA News Desk

Managed by Julie Hentz and Nathaly Aya

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Building the Evidence Base for Social and Behavior Change Communication (SBCC)
Written by Gael O'Sullivan   

2016 was a pivotal year for those of us working to improve health behaviors in developing countries. Drawing on behavioral science, social marketing, anthropology and other related disciplines, the SBCC community is actively curating, analyzing, and cataloguing the evidence base to demonstrate what works best to prevent illness and unintended pregnancy, treat sick people successfully, and shift social and cultural norms to strengthen the health enabling environment.  USAID, WHO, UNICEF and others are actively pursuing different yet related efforts to compile behavior change evidence on: 1) maternal, newborn, child and adolescent health, 2) malaria, 3) family planning and 4) water and sanitation (WASH).  A number of guidance protocols, evidence summaries and journal publications will be produced through these initiatives, which will spur the SBCC community forward with a solid toolbox of best practices. Stay tuned for social marketing-specific findings that will add to our iSMA toolbox as well. In the meantime, if you are interested to join some of the conversations related to these topics, check out: and  In addition, the Communication Initiative is currently holding a global consultation to identify the best ways for our worldwide social and behavior change network to organize and engage:

Telling Untold Stories and Innovating for Good
Written by Gael O'Sullivan   

As refugee Olympians kicked off the Social Good Summit at the 92nd Street Y in New York City on September 18, 2016, Chelsea Handler further energized the crowd with her opening salvo, “If you have a soap box, stand on it and scream!”  For two full days the likes of US Vice-President Joe Biden, actor Alec Baldwin, UN Ambassador Samantha Power, former President Joyce Banda of Malawi, musician Demi Lovato, US Secretary of State John Kerry, and journalist Shaun King challenged attendees with thought provoking insights and passionate calls to ensure that the world follows through on achieving the UN’s new Sustainable Development Goals.

Even more importantly, a wide array of everyday citizens also took the stage to share their stories, ranging from tenacious efforts to fight injustice to ingenious technology applications tackling intractable challenges.  As Mashable founder and CEO Pete Cashmore explained, “We set out to start a conversation, and with the power of your voices, we’ve started a movement.”  Now in its’ seventh year, the Social Good Summit is held during UN Week each September to examine the impact of technology and new media on social good initiatives around the world.  The theme, #2030NOW, asks, “What type of world do I want to live in by the year 2030?” With 1,800 people in New York, more than 100,000 watching the global broadcast live in seven languages, and over 1.8 billion impressions on social media, the Social Good Summit gave voice to a wide range of speakers and topics. 

A few key takeaways include:

  1. Each of us has a role to play in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals.  What are you doing to make the world a better place?
  2. Young people have tremendous energy and ideas – we need to support leadership training and other efforts to help them succeed.
  3. Technology will continue to play an increasing role in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals related to education, the environment, health, agriculture and other sectors. 
  4. We need new ways of thinking about and acting on the overwhelming refugee challenges in the world today.  As UNHCR Chief Filippo Grand says, “Humanitarian resources are not a solution – they are a stop gap.” Actress Connie Britton reminded us that we need to help those without a voice be heard, and others commented that we as a global community no longer seem to equate the word ‘refugee’ with the word ‘person’.

Social Marketing was not featured explicitly at the Summit, although many relevant principles such as understanding your audience, developing creative and compelling messages, and looking at the continuum of change needed from the consumer to the policymaker were featured in the presentations and discussions.  The four “P’s” were mentioned, although they were described as “policy, people, physicians, and pharma”.  Hopefully next year our global social marketing community can have a stronger voice at this critical forum.

Despite the enormous challenges discussed and debated throughout the Summit, attendees could not help but leave inspired after hearing speakers like Memory Banda, a young girl from Malawi.  Memory is an activist who had the courage to speak out at age 13 against traditions of child rape and child marriage.  Initially she and her friends just wanted more time to be educated and to enjoy their childhood.  With the help of the Girls Empowerment Network and Rise Up, Memory’s passion helped lead Malawi to pass a law in February 2016 banning child marriage.  Now four million girls can focus on school, childhood, and thinking about their futures in ways they never before imagined.

For more details and to watch the presentations, check out #2030Now and this link:


Elevating the Science and Art of Social and Behavior Change Communication (SBCC)
Written by Gael O'Sullivan   

For the first time ever, over 700 international development professionals gathered in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia from February 8-10, 2016 to kick off the inaugural International Social and Behavior Change Summit.  Participants came from 50 different countries to meet, network, and share evidence and lessons learned from maternal and child health, reproductive health, HIV/AIDS, Nutrition, water and sanitation (WASH), and malaria programs.  USAID’s flagship health communication project, HC3, which is led by Johns Hopkins University Center for Communication Programs, organized the Summit with the support of a diverse array of sponsors and steering committee members. 

Abt Associates colleagues at the first-ever International Social and Behavior Change Communication (SBCC) Summit in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, February 2016. Many attendees noted that this gathering was long overdue.  The Summit was not only instructive from a technical perspective, but perhaps more importantly, both young professionals and veterans were inspired to be with 700 like-minded individuals passionate about using behavioral science and social marketing principles to improve health outcomes in poor countries.  The format included a wide range of sessions, from traditional plenary and panel discussions to TED-style talks, ‘blue sky’ sessions (brainstorming in specific topics), ‘the Lion’s Den’ (a ‘Shark Tank’ style student competition), and an Entertainment Education Showcase.   Many presenters came from developing countries, and the voices of those directly affected by poor health infrastructure and limited resources were featured prominently.  Whether learning  how to use interactive voice response and SMS text messages to accelerate behavior change in Ghana,  involve boys and men through ‘gender transformative approaches’ to improve sexual and reproductive health, or apply ethnographies to chart character changes in Ugandan serial radio dramas,  the Summit offered insight-driven and thought-provoking results that participants could apply in their own work.

One important outcome of the Summit is “The Addis Declaration (2016)”, which outlines ten principles or considerations summarizing the state of SBCC and where the community hopes to go in the future.  Hopefully these principles will strengthen and enrich the SBCC field, link academic and practitioner members more closely, increase the stature and reputation of SBCC globally, and continue to improve the effectiveness and impact of communication on a local, national and global scale.  Read the full Summit report at:  and mark your calendars for the next SBCC Summit in March 2018 (stay tuned for details).


Meet Your iSMA Communications Team!

Please get to know the volunteers who work hard to create and channel iSMA content. Their efforts encourage membership, inform members of webinars and current events in Social Marketing around the globe, create the crucial social marketing job board, support the development of a shiny new website, all using social media, the iSMA newsletter and website as the communication vehicles.


Winthrop Morgan, MPH, President iSMA. Winthrop “Win” Morgan is a communication and marketing expert living in Maryland, US. In a career spanning  30 years, he has designed and directed more than 40 communication and marketing programs in North America, Africa, and Asia for family planning,  agricultural  entrepreneurism, maternal and child health, cancer prevention and treatment, cardiovascular disease prevention, immunization, and several new health technology introductions.  He has lived in France, England, Liberia, Ghana, Zambia, and Bangladesh.  Win holds a Master in Public Health degree from the Johns Hopkins University.  He currently provides global health consulting services to clients such as the World Health Organization, Centers for Disease Control, and International Vaccine Institute. He developed the Social Marketers Global Network, which was the forerunner of the International Social Marketing Association, of which is he is a co-founder.


Julie Hentz, MPH, Social Marketing Certified, Chair of the iSMA Comm Team. I serve as Director of Social Issue Marketing at IQ Solutions and have spent over 10 years as a Health Marketer at the National Center on Birth Defects and Developmental Disabilities at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC/NCBDDD), working with a variety of prevention tactics to reduce the prevalence of birth defects and developmental disabilities. I worked on the Learn the Signs. Act Early. Campaign to promote recognition of the early signs of autism. I also directed Social Media response for the Maternal Child Desk during H1N1 crisis, including a first-ever external partnership with Medscape to establish, with my colleagues, the CDC Expert Commentary Series, CDC guidance outreach to providers.

I am dedicated to using Social Marketing frameworks as a sustainable resolution to social challenges and am devoted to the expansion of the use of Social Marketing as a tool, as well as broader incorporation of SM into academic curriculum and corresponding accreditation for various levels of study. I am proud to be part of the iSMA Team and am committed to making it a powerful resource for Social Marketers.


Gael O’Sullivan is a founding board member of the International Social Marketing Association and former chair of the Communication Committee.  Ms. O’Sullivan is a Principal Associate at Abt Associates, Inc., with over 25 years of international development experience. She leads Abt Associates’ team of international social and behavior change communication (SBCC) experts in the health and economic growth sectors.  In addition to SBCC, Ms. O’Sullivan specializes in partnership development, social marketing, and capacity building as they relate to issues such as family planning, HIV and AIDS prevention and treatment, water and sanitation, tobacco control, and avian influenza. She has authored numerous technical publications and journal articles, is a frequent speaker and expert consultant, and has developed in-person and online behavior change training workshops.  Ms. O’Sullivan has designed, implemented and evaluated numerous research-based social marketing and communication strategies worldwide.  She 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, speaks fluent French, and has lived in Togo and Switzerland. 


Nathaly Aya Pastrana, MSc, from beautiful Colombia. I joined iSMA’s Communication Committee in 2014, where I contribute as co-editor of the bi-monthly newsletter and participate actively in the Association’s communication strategies. I decided to join iSMA to represent the voice of people and countries of the south in the Social Marketing field.

Currently I am a research assistant and PhD Student in Communication, specializing in Social Marketing at Università della Svizzera italiana in Switzerland, where I am working on a research for development project (COHESION Project) that addresses the double burden of Non-communicable and Neglected Tropical Diseases in Mozambique, Nepal and Peru.

I love marketing and have always been involved in promoting social and environmental change while working and volunteering across sectors with SMEs, government, academy, NGOs and multilateral organizations in marketing, communications, social responsibility and research. 


Okechukwu Umelo, MA, MBA. As a nonprofit communications professional, I truly believe that social marketing can change the world. Having worked for NGOs, on European Commission projects, and now in the United Nations system, I’m well aware of the power of social marketing as well as the challenges faced by practitioners. 

I joined iSMA to channel my passion for social marketing into a vibrant network of equally passionate advocates. For iSMA, I mainly focus on writing articles that promote, explore and reflect on approaches and discourses within the social marketing field, while also examining country and sector contexts.

My main areas of interest in social marketing are how the field intersects with communications, the tools and platforms used, sector-specific approaches, and theoretical and empirical analyses.

I’m a Nigerian national who has lived in 9 countries and traveled to many more. And when I’m not busy advocating for social marketing, I run a nonprofit communications blog, practice piano and travel to faraway lands. I’m looking forward to further collaborating with iSMA volunteers, and further engaging current and potential iSMA members.


Sara Nelson, Owner of Soda Creek Consulting ( based out of New Mexico, USA. I assist with developing and expanding the iSMA website

​We specialize in bilingual (English/Spanish) health communication and reaching out to low-literacy populations. Some examples of projects include the C​ommunity H​ealth Disparities Initiative through National Institutes of Health, a statewide sexual violence prevention campaign in New Mexico, and field research with farmworkers to assess health education materials for the Food and Drug Administration. My background is a mix of communication, advertising, program management, and health outreach, all of which give me a well-rounded perspective in the field of social marketing. I believe in social marketing because it reaches people where they're at and in ways they're ready for by considering barriers and motivators to behavior change.


Ricardo D. LaGrange, Ph.D., M.P.H.  I am a licensed clinical psychologist and public health specialist with a unique combination of behavioral health and research qualifications that builds a rare capacity for data-driven, culturally competent health communication and human service efforts.  Currently I work as the V.P. of Business Development – Health & Human Services for a healthcare management consulting company.  I have over 14 years of proven expertise procuring and leading Federal-, State- and locally-funded projects within academic medical institutions in the science of behavioral change and other healthcare-related initiatives.  In addition, my expertise in funding programs to support the medical and mental health needs of patients living with chronic illnesses have extended to both national and international projects.  I am delighted to be working with such a talented, passionate group of Social Marketers at iSMA and look forward connecting with others throughout our network.



Lani Steffens, MAHP, MPH with a concentration in Global Health Practice. I am currently completing a graduate certificate in Social Marketing. My research experience has included program evaluation for juvenile justice, mindfulness meditation and willpower, as well as the well-being of resettled refugees. She has worked in health promotion with college students, social marketing, and diversity and inclusion. Lani currently lives in Orlando, FL.

The American Public Health Association Annual Meeting (APHA), 2016
Written by Julie Hentz   

There were many Social Marketers in attendance at the 2016 APHA meeting, but for our iSMA members who missed the event, here is a brief recap.

The theme of the 2016 American Public Health Association’s (APHA) annual gathering in Denver Colorado, October 29-Nov 2 was to “Create the Healthiest Nation: Ensure the Right to Health”, a goal which Social Marketers working in public health share.

Opening plenary speakers were Colorado’s progressive Governor Hickenlooper and Planned Parenthood’s Cecile Richards. They reminded attendees of both their achievements and their challenges; challenges in changing the level of awareness about health issues, embracing improved choices that affect our health outcomes, ensuring that when choices are made that there is easy access to the things that support good health, and to stand for policies that enable the realization of an equitable distribution of good health for all.

As always, the APHA meeting and their 13,000 attendees from across the country and around the world, provides a perfect venue for identifying the many areas that can benefit from social marketing approaches across the many health sectors. The sectors are represented by APHA’s 31 primary Sections ranging from Alcohol, Tobacco, and Other Drugs (ATOD) to Maternal and Child Health, from Food and Nutrition to the Environment section, as well as a policy section, the Law.

The wonderful opportunity for making professional connections that APHA provides is such a valuable asset. It is a forum for idea exchange, to share success stories and to put heads together to sort out a particularly wicked problem. Attendees can be sure that they will leave the APHA meeting with a more complete toolbox to enrich their program outcomes and with new professional acquaintances who share their objectives.
iSMA materials were distributed along with engaging discussions which promoted membership and responded to questions at the IQ Solutions Exhibit, #701.

APHA 2017 will be in Atlanta, Nov 4-8. See you there!

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