MSc Community Medicine alumna, Elizabeth Mason is a specialist in Maternal, Newborn and Child Health and has spent a large amount of her life living and working in various countries in Africa. She worked for 13 years in Zimbabwe, initially at district level with the charity Oxfam, followed by a position at the Zimbabwean Ministry of Health at provincial and national levels. She subsequently worked for 11 years with the World Health Organization (WHO) in their inter-country office for Southern Africa moving on to their Regional Office in Harare, as Regional Adviser for Child and Adolescent Health, and in September 2004 she became the Director of the Department of Child and Adolescent Health and Development.
From the position as Director of Child and Adolescent Health she was given the responsibility in 2010 of Maternal, Newborn, Child and Adolescent Health. “I co-led the Every Newborn Action Plan, which was adopted by the WHO in May 2014, the metrics are being led by Prof Joy Lawn, MARCH centre at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, [I] also launched the Health for the World’s Adolescents: A second Chance in the Second Decade in May 2014 (Jane Ferguson, now at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine led the report).
Elizabeth retired from the WHO at the end of May 2014 and has since been appointed on a number of panels and expert committees. She is currently a member of the Independent Advisory Panel for Every Woman Every Child, the UN Secretary General’s flagship movement for the Global Strategy on Women’s, Children’s and Adolescent’s Health www.iapewec.org. “We have just presented our first report to the Secretary General in New York. She is also a member of the SAGE Working Group on Maternal and Neonatal Tetanus Elimination – their report was presented to the SAGE meeting in November.” Additionally, Elizabeth is an honorary Fellow of University College London and does some teaching on their MSc courses.
Elizabeth told us that studying an MSc at the School gave her the foundation of core skills in the practice of public health, which she has used throughout her career. She was able to use the country experience that she had gained in Zimbabwe prior to undertaking the MSc to see the relevance of epidemiology, statistics, health policy, planning, management and financing to her everyday work.
“Maternal, Newborn, Child and Adolescent Health are core elements of a functional health system, delivering for the population as a whole. They are core to the new Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 3 on health and beyond to many of the other SDGs, far beyond Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) 4&5. LSHTM as a leading school of public health worldwide is thus well placed to provide essential training in Maternal, Newborn, Child and Adolescent Health and link this to the other core specialities provided by the school, e.g. nutrition, epidemiology, health policy and planning. With the health reforms of the 1990s and their aftermath, plus the continuing high attrition of key health professionals in many developing countries, the need for continued capacity building is evident. It is important that LSHTM continue to play an active role in this respect, both through its MSc and PhD programmes, also through building in-country research capacity of developing countries – and enhancing this with the network of alumni.”
Elizabeth told us that she feels proud to be an alumna of the School. “The focus of the School on building skills of health professionals worldwide has been achieved in many ways. Looking at the number of alumni of the School working in Ministries of Health in developed and developing countries, international organisations and NGOs worldwide. The network of alumni and the warm welcome given to the alumni when visiting the School or when alumni reunions are held in various destinations are key factors in the realisation of LSHTM’s mission. As an individual I am privileged to be able to contribute to the overall mission of the school and to improvement of the health of mothers, children and adolescents worldwide”.
Elizabeth’s word of advice to current students is “experience ‘on-the ground’ is essential to good practice of public health, whether before or after your MSc, do get as much practical experience in your field of work as possible, whether working in the Ministry of Health, or a non-governmental organisation (NGO); it will be invaluable for your future.”
Image courtesy of Elizabeth Mason – photo taken at a presentation she gave at the International Paediatrics Association Congress in Vancouver in August
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