The spread of emerging infectious diseases, notably Zika, creates a complex and challenging information environment for public health officials and communicators in the Western Hemisphere. The rapid speed with which a disease spreads often leads to misinformation. As the Zika case shows, diseases are not confined to any one country, making a regional response vital to providing timely, verifiable information about the disease and ways to address it. As such, combating massive, cross-border public health crises increasingly requires technological tools to further support the need for credible, clear, and timely information sharing to respond to a pandemic.
The Tech Camp targets approximately 60 public health professionals and government officials involved in health communications from countries throughout the English-speaking Caribbean. They will travel to Bridgetown, Barbados, to participate in a regional Tech Camp aimed at increasing their knowledge of technologies that enable better two-way communication with the public during a health emergency.
Ayesha Lett has been the Media/Information Specialist at the U.S. Embassy to Barbados, the Eastern Caribbean, and the Organization of Eastern Caribbean States since December 1, 2013.
Ayesha leads the Media Unit in the Public Affairs Section at the U.S. Embassy Bridgetown which is accredited to seven countries, and one organization, so her portfolio extends beyond Barbados to Antigua and Barbuda, Dominica, Grenada, St. Kitts and Nevis, St. Lucia, and St. Vincent and the Grenadines. She supervises the Social Media Coordinator, advises the Public Affairs Officer, and the Deputy Public Affairs Officer on trending topics in the media, and society, acts as the liaison between the regional media and the Embassy, and lends support to the other agencies in the Embassy.
Ayesha started her career in the media, first as a reporter and television anchor at the local television station, and then branched into the print media, before embarking on her career in corporate communications and public relations. Her most recent role before joining the U.S. Embassy was as Corporate Communications Manager at CIBC FirstCaribbean International Bank, the largest bank in the region.
She graduated from the Georgia State University after earning her Bachelors of Arts degree in Broadcast Journalism, with a minor in Political Science. She also received a Diploma in Public Relations from the Barbados Institute of Management and Productivity. She will begin her online Master’s degree in Strategic Public Relations at George Washington University, which is based in Washington, D.C., in January 2018.
In her spare time, Ayesha loves to read, cook, go to the beach, and shop! She is the mother of one daughter, Arianna.
Brian is currently the Digital Strategist for the State Department’s Bureau of Western Hemisphere Affairs. He coordinates with Embassies and consulates throughout the region on social media best practices, content, training, and digital policy. Previously Brian managed social properties for the State Department, including a Facebook page with over 2 million fans. He started his career in the Environmental Protection Agency working on digital communications and grants. He spends most of his free time walking his energetic dog everywhere he goes, and gallivanting with friends, family and wife Jessica.
Dr. Cheryl Jones
Dr. Cheryl ‘Abeo’ Jones received her training in medical sociology from Howard University in Washington, DC. She is also an educator with a plethora of experience in research focused on social behavioural aspects of public health as well as in curriculum development and implementation. Dr. Jones has developed curricula and designed training modules for private institutions, including the United States university system and for multinational corporations.
Currently, she serves as a Behavioural Scientist for the Caribbean Public Health Agency. In this role, Dr. Jones provides technical support to CARPHA Member States CMS. Her expertise assists in the development and implementation of regional and national approaches to identify, enhance and implement evidence-based public health interventions and innovative initiatives that seek to reduce the impact of HIV/AIDS, NCDs (non-communicable diseases) and public health emergencies throughout the Caribbean.
Dr. Jones has obtained a Bachelor of Business Administration in Business Information Systems, a Master’s in Business Administration with concentrations in Finance and Decision Sciences, a Master’s in Public Health in International Health and a Ph.D. in Sociology. Her dissertation, completed at Howard University, was entitled The Impact of Social, Political and Economic Factors on the Midwifery Model of Care in the Eastern United States and Port Antonio, Jamaica.
As a Digital Strategist and Content Manager, Chris approaches social media not only as a profession, but as a creative outlet. He has a passion for tying social strategy to the client’s business objectives and strives to create content that is educational, entertaining and relevant. Chris has certifications in Hootsuite, Social Media Marketing and Google Adwords. He is presently a marketing consultant for Aries Technologies as well as the founder of Poola Social, a Caribbean Social Media Agency. Outside of Social Media, he is a full-time dad, part-time cricket coach and an aspiring foodie.
Chris has a Masters in Public Health from Emory University with a focus on Health Policy and Management and has worked in both a paid and volunteer capacity with the Healthy Caribbean Coalition. The “Get the Message” advocacy and awareness NCDs campaign remains one of the proudest accomplishments of his professional career to date.
Diego Bassante is Facebook´s Manager for Political and Government Outreach in Latin America, based in Mexico City.
His scope of work is focused on the use of Facebook by governments and political parties, digital diplomacy and e-government. Diego provides training to political and governmental teams in order to facilitate the use of Facebook as a platform for political communication and citizen participation. He led the Facebook team that worked in different elections in Argentina, Peru, Colombia, Ecuador and Mexico.
Diego holds a Master´s of Public Management from Johns Hopkins University. Prior to Facebook, he was a career diplomat for the Ecuadorian Foreign Service and served at the Ecuadorian Embassy in Washington between 2009 and 2014.
Heidi-Ann Boxer has been in the IT field for the past 19 years. Starting off her career in DOS programming, she decided to give up the back-end development and focus on delivering the product while guiding her team of software architects. She is now the manager of The Institute of Corporate Development Limited and has successfully delivered many business technology solutions with her team.
She is also a lecturer in Information Technology, Accounting, and Life-Skills and a facilitator for Instructional Technology for Educators. Heidi-Ann holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Management and a host of other qualifications in Information Technology, Human Resource Management, and Accounting. She is currently pursuing higher qualification in Mathematics.
Karel Mc Intosh
Karel Mc Intosh is the Director of Training & Marketing at Livewired Group, a communication training and marketing solutions consultancy based in Trinidad. Over the course of her 15-year career, she has earned a solid reputation as a social media strategist, marketer, trainer, and content creator.
Attaining global recognition for her work, Karel was a finalist for “Magazine Launch of the Year” at the 2010 Global Digital Magazine awards for her startup – Outlish.com. Karel is also the first Trinidadian to earn a spot at the Branson Centre of Entrepreneurship (she eventually withdrew from the programme). She holds a BSc in Government (Upper Second Class Honours) from the University of the West Indies, and an MSc in Corporate Communication (Distinction) from Thames Valley University (UK).
Dr. Karen Polson-Edwards
Upon graduation from the University of the West Indies, Mona, with a BSc in Zoology, Dr. Polson-Edwards began her career in medical entomology as the Scientific Officer at the Vector Control Unit of the Ministry of Health, Jamaica in 1994. In 1997 she took up a position at the then Caribbean Epidemiology Centre (CARPHA/PAHO/WHO) as a Senior Technologist and then as the Laboratory Technical Development Officer, Entomology. During that time, Dr Polson-Edwards completed an MSc Degree in Biology and Control of Disease Vectors at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine. In 2007 she left CAREC to undertake studies related to the pursuit of a PHD in Zoology in collaboration with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and the University of the West Indies. After a brief stint at the UWI as an Instructor in the Department of Life Sciences, Karen returned to work at CAREC as the Medical Entomologist and then transitioned in that position to the Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA) in 2013. In February 2016, Dr Polson-Edwards was appointed to the post of Assistant Director, Surveillance, Disease Prevention and Control and is CARPHA’s lead on the Zika response. She currently serves as the Chair of PAHO’s Public Health Entomology and Vector Control Technical Advisory Group.
Dr. Polson-Edwards has several scientific publications in peer reviewed journals where her research interests have focused on insecticide resistance in Aedes aegypti mosquitoes. She has spent time at the US-CDC, Atlanta and with the US Naval Medical Research Unit, Cambodia as a guest researcher. In 2010, she was awarded the David Picou Young Researcher Prize by the Caribbean Health Research Council.
Lorraine Francis (MPH, MHA) is the Technical Officer Communicable Diseases and Emergency Response, Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA). A Public Health professional with 16 years combined laboratory and infectious disease epidemiology experience, Ms Francis has worked with Biosafety level two and three pathogens, and in response to several infectious disease outbreaks. In her current role, she works with CARPHA member states to strengthen in-country capacity to implement appropriate public health measures in response to diseases with epidemic potential and provides support for field investigation and rapid response to other public health events. Ms Francis, a member of several professional organizations and networks is currently reading for a Doctoral degree in Public Health (DrPH) from the University of the West Indies Mona Campus.
Mrs. Smith-Cummings has over ten (10) years of experience in Data Management with a focus on data collection, collation, analysis and reporting. A national of Belize, she possesses social and cultural awareness and respect for human rights. Training at the Masters level in Development Statistics (Demography), she has competences in population disease profiles, statistical analysis and the representation of social and demographic features. Mrs. Smith-Cummings also possesses demonstrated skills in project monitoring and program evaluation and has spent considerable time working on the generation of project and clinical statistical reports. She possesses strong interpersonal skills and experience with effective workshop facilitation and appropriate technical capacity building and M&E system strengthening
Shannon Clarke is an electrical engineer who is passionate about the application of mobile technology to empower individuals and improve the standards of health & living throughout the world. He currently serves as the Director of CarePoint.co, a tech start-up which helps doctors to engage their patients in-between visits using scheduled and automated messaging for appointment scheduling, bill payments and monitoring patient conditions. Additionally, Shannon is the CEO and Co-Founder of MediRevu.com, an online service which helps patients manage their chronic conditions and take control of their health via daily reminders to adopt a healthier lifestyle
Wesley Gibbings is a journalist and media trainer who have been in the business for over 35 years.
He has edited and contributed to a number of journalistic handbooks on the coverage of climate change, elections, the rights of the child and Caribbean environmental issues.
Gibbings has also served as visiting lecturer at the Caribbean Institute of Media and Communication, University of the West Indies (UWI) in Jamaica and as a training coordinator for the Media Development Authority of Fiji.
His career includes work as a communication advisor to the Caribbean Community Secretariat in Guyana, the Caribbean Environmental Health Institute in Saint Lucia and the Environmental Management Authority in Trinidad & Tobago.
He is the second-ever Caribbean recipient of the National Association of Black Journalists (USA) Percy Qoboza International Journalist Award.