Florida’s first World Health Organization Collaborating Center designated at the USF College of Public Health

This is the only one of its kind to combine public health, social marketing, anthropology, engineering and commercial marketing.

TAMPA, Fla. (Sept. 16, 2014) – The World Health Organization (WHO), the United Nations’ public health arm, has designated the USF College of Public Health (COPH) as a WHO Collaborating Center for Social Marketing for Social Change to address non-communicable diseases (WHO CC).

This is the first WHO Collaborating Center both at USF and in Florida, which places the university among a select group of centers located around the world. Appointed by the WHO Director General, the WHO collaborating centers support global programs in health and advance research by assisting, coordinating and promoting activities of leading organizations.

WHO team

Several team members for the newly designated center, pictured here, include Back row, from left: Wayne Westhoff, PhD, Associate Professor Global Health, College of Public Health; and Jim Lindenberger, Director, Social Marketing Group, College of Public Health. Front row, from left: Tali Schneider, MPH, Research Associate; Carol Bryant, PhD, Distinguished Health Professor, College of Public Health; Linda Whiteford, PhD, MPH, Professor of Anthropology & Affiliate Faculty College of Public Health; and Mahmooda Khaliq Pasha, MHS, Doctoral Student and Center Administrator.

The USF WHO CC for Social Marketing for Social Changes is the only center that combines public health, social marketing, anthropology, engineering and commercial marketing. In addition to offering training and technical assistance, the center will facilitate knowledge exchange and build the capacity of leading health organizations’ ability to apply social marketing to resolve social and biomedical problems.

At the head of the USF WHO CC for Social Marketing for Social Change are COPH Distinguished Health Professor Carol Bryant, in the Department of Community and Family Health, and Professor Linda Whiteford, in the USF Department of Anthropology. Associate director for the center is Mahmooda Khaliq Pasha, a doctoral student in COPH.

The center will address the increased rate of non-communicable diseases globally by capitalizing on the strengths of social marketing coupled with other social science and social change strategies.

“Effective disease prevention is based on understanding the disease route, human beliefs and practices, and effective and sustainable behavior change options. For instance, life style patterns that contribute to chronic obesity cannot be changed unless culturally appropriate, affordable, and convenient alternatives are made possible. Social marketing tools help design the possible alternatives and anthropological concepts help understand the cultural constraints of peoples’ lives. Together they make it work,” said Whiteford.

The Pan American Health Organization (PAHO), the world’s oldest international public health organization and a member of the United Nations system, nominated USF to become a collaborating center. USF has supported and assisted PAHO initiatives by providing social marketing training and technical assistance since 2006. Conferences and workshops have been conducted in Panama, Mexico, Chile, Guatemala and throughout the region via the PAHO virtual campus, and faculty have developed a social marketing module for PAHO’s virtual campus reaching public health professionals working throughout the Caribbean.

“This recognizes the long standing collaboration between USF’s social marketing faculty and students with PAHO,” said Bryant. “It is a tremendous honor. And we expect this will lead to other collaborations globally.”

Whiteford noted, “This honor also recognizes long-standing and innovative collaborations between the USF Department of Anthropology and the College of Public Health. In addition to a dual-degree in anthropology and MPH program established almost twenty years ago, faculty in these two academic units now collaborate on a unique graduate certificate program that equips students to apply social marketing approaches to bring about social change. The new WHO CC will build on this innovative foundation. We see this as yet another exciting USF Anthropology and Public Health achievement.”

Contributions to the center are coming from other parts of the university as well.

“Faculty in both the Business and Engineering Colleges want to combine their expertise with those from marketing and anthropology to effect social change, so we are all working together through the Center,” Whiteford said.

Bryant has directed social marketing research on a wide variety of public health projects. She also co-directs the Florida Prevention Research Center and co-coordinates the National Social Marketing and Public Health Conference.

Whiteford has done consulting work for WHO, the World Bank and USAID, and at USF has facilitated several university-wide task forces that resulted in the creation of the Office of Community Engagement, the Office of Sustainability and USF World. She has also helped develop the USF School of Global Sustainability and the Global Academic Partners Program.

The team members for the newly designated center include Carol Bryant, PhD, Distinguished Health Professor, College of Public Health; Mahmooda Khaliq Pasha, MHS, doctoral student and center administrator; Anand Kumar, PhD, MBA, chair of Department of Marketing, College of Business; Jim Lindenberger, director, Social Marketing Group, College of Public Health; Robert McDermott, PhD, fellow, Florida Prevention Research Center; Tali Schneider, MPH, Research Associate; Wayne Westhoff, PhD , associate professor global health, College of Public Health; and Linda Whiteford, PhD, MPH, professor of anthropology and College of Public Health affiliate faculty member.

Story by Barbara Melendez, University Communications and Marketing
Photo by Eric Younghans, USF Health Communications