Johnstone, Maia

School of Public Health



Senegal Integrated Service Delivery and Healthy Behaviors Project (ISD-HB)

The "Integrated Health Services and Healthy Behaviors (ISD-HB)” project, also known as Neema, supports the Government of Senegal in its efforts to ensure that health services are improved in a sustainable manner and used effectively to reduce maternal, neonatal and child mortality and morbidity rates and contribute to the emergence of an AIDS-free generation. Implemented as part of USAID's Health Program 2016-2021, the Neema project is implemented by a consortium of NGOs led by IntraHealth International. The project combines support for service delivery in public health structures, community health system strengthening, the design, implementation of integrated communication strategies for social and behavior change (SBCC), research, monitoring and evaluation in priority health areas. The Johns Hopkins Center for Communication Programs (CCP) leads the SBCC component of the Neema project and will be hosting the student in the project office in Dakar.

CCP is also leading a new, 18-month USAID Global Health Security Agenda project to build Senegal's capacity on risk communication for priority zoonotic diseases.

PI Mentor: Hannah Mills

I interned with the Johns Hopkins Center for Communication Programs in Dakar, Senegal from June- December 2019. The six months I spent were formative both personally and professionally.

I started the placement with a keen interest in global health, particularly in family planning and maternal health. My initial scope of work for the internship focused on a large-scale maternal and child health. However, a shift in the project timeline led to me spending most of my time on Breakthrough ACTION, a project focused on risk communication for zoonotic diseases, or diseases that can be transmitted from animals to humans like avian flu, rabies, and Ebola. Though I was initially hoping to spend my placement deepening my interest in maternal and child health, the change enabled me to learn more about the field of global health security. And while I hadn’t previously realized it, my interests in health systems strengthening and coordinating diverse actors to achieve global goals lie at the heart of global health security. Though I am still very interested in family planning and maternal health, the change of focus led to a better understanding of One Health (i.e. the integration of people, animal, and environmental health), as well as the process of developing messages related to risk communication. Moving forward, I am excited to see how I can integrate these different interests throughout my career.

            In Dakar, many people speak a mix of French and Wolof. For this reason, I took Wolof classes in addition to using French in the workplace. Both languages turned out to be critical during and after work. Part of my interest in a placement in Senegal was to use my French in a professional setting and gain the technical, health-related vocabulary that I will need in the future. Though I had a base in French, the placement challenged me to speak with nuance about technical topics like behavior change, and I found this to be both challenging and rewarding. Learning Wolof, a language that I had no prior experience with, increased my ability to connect with my colleagues and with people I interacted with outside of work. Most importantly, I was once again humbled by the experience of being a beginner and the frustration of not being able to express even basic thoughts and needs. I feel enormous gratitude to the dozens of people who were patient while I fumbled, and I hope to carry this gratitude forward as I communicate with people from different backgrounds than my own.

            Lastly, the experience provided an opportunity to think critically about my future career path. I had hoped that spending six months in a low-income setting would help clarify where I wanted to be based for future work. Instead, I find myself more confused! The benefit, however, is that working at the CCP office forced me to reflect on what my role could and should be in implementing global health programs. The staff in Dakar were incredibly welcoming and supportive during my placement. But in the future, any role that I could fill could absolutely be filled by folks with the same education and skillset, and a much better grasp of the context and languages than I will ever have. While this may seem obvious, the placement has challenged me to think more about my own contributions within the global health field.  



October 2022



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