It has been a week and a half at the World Health Organization and I want to share with you readers my experience so far.
First of all, a quick WHO structure lesson, essential for those working here. (Like Stanford with its CoHo, FloMo, and HooTow, the WHO loves its acronyms.) I am working in the Communications Department with the DC (Director of Communications: Christy Feig) for the DG (Director-General of WHO, leader of the whole operation: Dr. Margaret Chan) in the DGO (Director-General’s Office). Directly under the DG is the DDG (Deputy Director General: Dr. Asamoah Baah). Under the DDG are all the ADGs (Assistant Director Generals) for each department, such as Noncommunicable Diseases and Mental Health or Health Security and Environment.
The job of the Communications Department is to increase the visibility of the WHO’s work both internally and externally. Examples of responsibilities of the department are to handle press releases, conference planning and advertisement, interactions with journalists, the WHO website, recruitment videos, just to name a few. With members of the communications team I have been attending biweekly press briefings at the United Nations. Those sessions are always so informative, as communications officers from WHO and other UN agencies present all the breaking news happening in their departments in the past few days. Instead of scouring a newspaper for my global news, I can hear it firsthand! Other than helping with the overall Communications Department, I am working on a few projects in specific clusters: Maternal, newborn, child and adolescent health (MCA) and Non-communicable diseases (NCD).
The MCA communications officer just left on medical leave last Friday, so I am trying to fill in for her place until end of September. My temporary assignment in her seat puts me in the fast track to learning how to handle communications for an entire department. Currently I am overseeing a web merger for two departments that are coming together to form MCA (maternal newborn health and child adolescent health). Other topics on my agenda for the department include helping out with a press release for a few upcoming publications in peer-reviewed journals, keeping web content up to date, and participating in teleconferences with other global organizations to discuss maternal and child health topics.
View of my work station on the 7th floor of WHO
Cafe and meeting spot steps away from the building’s entrance
View from the 7th floor lobby outside the Director-General’s office
With the NCD department, my primary task is to work on the upcoming UN Summit in September in New York City. Last week I drafted a world-wide release plan for a “Call to Action” video inspiring viewers to contact their leaders to attend the summit. I am also working on compiling a list of “Tough Questions” (and their answers) for WHO spokespeople in preparation for speaking with the media during the conference. More work on the Summit will be coming up as preparations for the major event ramp up closer to September.
In an effort to make my posts a bit shorter, I will update about living in Geneva and also the intern community in my next post!