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June 23, 2009

Center for Communication Programs Honors MTV Executive for Outstanding Contribution to Health Communication

Cathy Phiri, Social Responsibility Director for MTV Networks International, Receives Gold Medallion Award

The Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health’s Center for Communication Programs (CCP) has awarded Cathy Phiri, the social responsibility director for MTV Networks International, the International Health Communication Gold Medallion Award for outstanding contributions to health communication. The Gold Medallion was awarded on June 23 at a ceremony in Baltimore, Md. during CCP’s Global Meeting, a week-long gathering of CCP staff from around the world.

Phiri became social responsibility director for MTV Networks International (MTVNI) in 2007. As director, she oversees MTVNI’s multimedia global HIV/AIDS initiative, “Staying Alive”—an MTV initiative that has evolved into the world’s leading media response to HIV and AIDS. The pilot program provides youth-targeted information promoting safer lifestyle choices and fighting the stigma and discrimination fueling the HIV epidemic in Kenya, Tanzania and Trinidad & Tobago. Funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, “Staying Alive” is developing a new, expanded regional- and country-level approach to complement its existing campaign using television, radio and peer educators. The goals of the pilot are to model HIV transmission risk-reduction among young people and to increase motivation and self-efficacy to practice protective behaviors. CCP is collaborating with “Staying Alive” to monitor and evaluate the pilot program.

In addition to “Staying Alive,” Phiri also served as executive producer of “Uncensored,” a talk show that deals with sexual health issues for young people in Africa, and as co-executive producer of “Sexpress Yourself,” MTVNI’s first tri-channel production, which provided young people from Latin America and the Caribbean with an opportunity to speak freely about sex. A native of Zambia, Phiri is the co-founder and Board Director of Youth Media, a non-profit organization specializing in behavior change communication about sexuality, HIV and AIDS, and geared toward young people in Zambia.

“Cathy has been an outstanding leader in the field of behavior change communication. Her dedication and creativity in educating a young diverse audience about key health issues epitomizes CCP’s own mission to improve lives across the globe,” said Susan Krenn, director of CCP. “I also applaud MTV’s commitment to improving global health with “Staying Alive,” and its efforts to educate young people about HIV/AIDS and challenge the stigma associated with the disease. We are proud to share a common goal with MTV in finding innovative ways to communicate health messages and to foster dialogue and promote positive change among the world’s most vulnerable populations,” added Krenn.

“I am both honored and humbled that Johns Hopkins University and the CCP has selected me as a recipient for this prestigious award,” said Phiri. “Working in the field of HIV/AIDS behavior change communication for fourteen years, is something that I’m deeply passionate about and it’s great to have my work and efforts recognized by such a leading institution. This acknowledgment strengthens my resolve to continue my work to stem the spread of HIV/AIDS as it continues to affect my peers.”

The CCP is part of the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. CCP, now celebrating its 20th anniversary, has worked with public and private partners on strategic communication programs to address the world’s most pressing health concerns, including HIV/AIDS, reproductive health, malaria, pandemic influenza, safe water, nutrition, and infectious and chronic diseases.

“CCP’s work around the globe fits clearly into the School’s mission of saving lives, millions at a time. Their contributions to public health practice and impact are many and the School is fortunate to have had this rich capacity in health communication in its portfolio over the last two decades,” said Michael J. Klag, MD, MPH, dean of the Bloomberg School of Public Health.

Public Affairs media contact for the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health: Tim Parsons at 410-955-7619 or tmparson@jhsph.edu
Contact for the Center for Communication Programs: Cathy Church-Balin at 410-659-6283 or church@jhuccp.org.