Mary Carol Jennings, MD MPH (pictured second from left)
Report Lead on Pneumonia & Diarrhea Progress Report, Public Health Physician
Interview by Swati Sudarsan
Q: What Is your background, and how did it contribute to your perspective as Report Lead this year?
Mary Carol (MC): I’m on the faculty at IVAC, with appointments in the Department of International Health as well as in the Preventive Medicine Residency Program and Health Policy & Management. I’m a public health physician, with a background in obstetrics, and the opportunity to work on vaccines provides a vibrant link between my clinical background and my expertise in public and population health. After being involved last year as a writer for the Pneumonia and Diarrhea Progress Report, I was honored when IVAC approached me to ask me to lead the report this year.
Q: What is the Pneumonia and Diarrhea Progress Report?
MC: We analyze public data, from WHO/UNICEF Estimates of National Immunization Coverage (WUENIC), and create a report that serves as an accountability tool for funders, implementers, and communities. It spotlights IVAC’s strengths in data synthesis, translation and communication. When we developed the methods behind the report’s score – the Global Action Plan for the Prevention and Control of Pneumonia and Diarrhea (GAPPD) Score– we were looking for a way to compare countries against progress over time, and we find that each year, more partners and more countries are using the report as we envision.
Q: How did you and your team approach the writing process for the report?
MC: This report is a labor of the mind and the heart. The way that the IVAC team came together to turn out a great report was impressive. I’m proud that we were able to explore new approaches to make this a cross-cutting and multidisciplinary report. When IVAC released its first report we put in a lot of work to get the word out. Today, our report has multiple “sister” reports, high quality projects coming from a wide array of partners who care about preventing disease and suffering. I like to think that we’ve had a small part to play in creating and shaping this positive space for science-driven advocacy messages for health.
Q: Who is the intended audience of this report?
MC: Before this year’s data was released, our dissemination team conducted an elegant analysis of the intended audience and what they find most useful. They found that countries, programs implementers, policymakers on the country level, and people working in global headquarters all use this report and its data. We also found organizations that hold significant financial resources and are charged with making strategic investments in global health use this report. We hope this report is useful for these potential end-users.
Q: Has report readership differed over the years?
MC: The users and audience of the report have somewhat evolved over the years. To keep up, this year we set out to highlight examples of worthwhile return on investment that result from targeted, strategic financial decisions. Additionally, something a little different this year is our explicit focus on takeaways for readers in the donor community.
Q: What are some of these takeaways for readers in the donor community?
MC: At big scientific conferences this year, for example the American Public Health Association (APHA) and the American Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene (ASTMH), I’ve noted a mounting level of concern over potential gaps in the funds needed to stay on target with the Sustainable Development Goals and other targets the global health community has set. I would hope that leaders on the global stage who have the resources to increase their level of investment might see this report and be convinced of the need to not only maintain, but to increase the involvement of global investors around the table.
Q: What was the most exciting aspect of working on this report for you?
MC: I had a lot of fun being involved first-hand with Prar Vasudevan, our Lead Analyst, as she ran the numbers. We worked together to synthesize the evidence for insight into which countries have progressed, and where the gaps remain. In addition to serving as the lead author on the report, I was also the prime author on a case study. It was a lot of fun to be able to dig into the literature and seek advice from nutrition experts in the field. It is quite rewarding to see this endeavor progress from a vague idea to a polished publication that has the potential for so much impact.