Salt reduction research leads to WHO collaboration to develop virtual social marketing workforce development training programs

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“To tackle current health challenges effectively, it’s critical to create a public health workforce that is able to tap into a wide range of innovative approaches and social marketing is one of these,” said Dr. Mahmooda Khaliq Pasha, assistant professor of social marketing and associate director of the WHO Collaborating Centre on Social Marketing and Social Change at the USF College of Public Health.

USF and the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO), are set to launch a new social marketing training program stemming from prior work in Latin America.  Khaliq Pasha is principal investigator for the International Development Research Centre (IDRC) funded project evaluating the use of social marketing to reduce salt intake in four Latin American countries–Brazil, Peru, Costa Rica and Paraguay. 

To curb salt intake in these countries, Khaliq Pasha and COPH doctoral student Silvia Sommariva provided training and technical assistance in social marketing to core research teams in each country. The teams consisted of representatives from the ministries of health, as well as those from the nonprofit sector and academic institutions.

Mahmooda Khaliq Pasha, PhD, MHS, CPH. (Photo courtesy of Khaliq Pasha)

As a result of this work, Khaliq Pasha said, PAHO received additional funding from the American Heart Foundation and the European Union to develop a 5-course curriculum on social marketing, which will be hosted on the PAHO virtual campus.  “The courses span from defining programs to analyzing research to implementation to monitoring and evaluation.”

They’ve even developed a short module on social marketing applications to the COVID-19 emergency, Khaliq Pasha said.

The first course is set to launch July 14, 2020.

“The goal of the virtual learning programs on social marketing for public health is to address the complex challenges public health professional face against both communicable and noncommunicable diseases, as well as in emergency response,” Khaliq Pasha said. “Social marketing is appreciated for its ability to influence behavior change within a population to improve health outcomes, create social good, change social norms and influence decision makers.”

The series of courses use the salt reduction efforts from Latin America as a case study.  Dissemination for the work in Latin America continues with an article summarizing the implementation science behind the work published in Sight and Life magazine

“High blood pressure accounts for two-thirds of all strokes and one half of all heart disease. Latin America has some of the highest rates of hypertension, and the prevalence will only increase as people live longer,” Khaliq Pasha said.

The final social marketing and communication plan has been published on the IDRC’s digital library.  It is also being widely disseminated within Costa Rica, Paraguay, Brazil and Peru, according to Khaliq Pasha.

Reducing Salt Intake in Latin America

It’s National Nutrition Month! We’re live with USF COPH’s Dr. Mahmooda Khaliq Pasha and Silvia Sommariva who are here today to talk to us about their research efforts to reduce salt intake in Latin America. #USFCOPHRocks! #NationalNutritionMonth #Salt Florida Prevention Research Center

Posted by USF College of Public Health on Wednesday, March 27, 2019

“Our plan is now available via a digital library and Latin American countries can use what we did to develop a context specific social marketing intervention to reduce salt intake,” she said.

Khaliq Pasha said the group developed a policy brief, also available via the IDRC digital library, to guide policy throughout the region on what they can do to address hypertension and salt reduction.

The courses will not only develop the capacity of the public health professionals around the work, but will be an additional offering and resource for up and coming public health professionals training by USF.

To access future courses applying social marketing to public health issues, visit the PAHO virtual campus.

Story by Anna Mayor, USF College of Public Health