Sherine Guirguis
Cofounder, director, and lead strategist at Common Thread

Throughout her career, Sherine Guirguis has applied behavior and social change communication strategies to help solve some of the world’s toughest public health challenges, including the effort to eradicate polio worldwide and the response to the West African Ebola crisis.

In various senior communications roles at UNICEF, Guirguis led large-scale behavior change strategies to eradicate polio. Prioritizing behavioral and social factors from the outset of eradication program design helped drive tremendous success. Her work supported government efforts to end polio, particularly in the most dangerous places left to eradicate the disease: Pakistan, Afghanistan, and parts of Africa. She was part of the team in India that contributed to the last reported polio case there in 2011.

In addition to those efforts, Guirguis led UNICEF’s behavior change strategy in response to the Ebola outbreak in West Africa. Putting human, social, and behavioral dynamics at the center of the response helped stop the outbreak and manage the fallout. She also worked on other public health issues with national health programs in Darfur, Sri Lanka, and the Maldives.

Last year, Guirguis cofounded Common Thread, an international social and behavior change communications company. Common Thread’s mission is threefold: to harness the power of human behavior to stop diseases from spreading; to help people and communities make healthier choices; and to bridge the gap between well-meaning public health strategies and human behavior.

In her work as director and lead strategist at Common Thread, Guirguis continues to contribute to the safety and health of some of the world’s most vulnerable people. Her work includes designing measurable strategies to improve public health and development programs, and uncovering what motivates people around the world to make positive decisions to improve their lives.

Sponsored by: Calcium

Calcium founder and CEO 
Steven Michaelson

What pressing world health issue holds the most promise for healthcare marketers and agencies to make a big difference? 

Although it is declining in the U.S., tobacco usage worldwide remains a leading cause of death, illness, and economic hardship. 

According to the World Health Organization, tobacco kills more than 7 million people a year, with more than 6 million of those deaths attributable to direct tobacco use and about 890,000 the result of secondhand smoke. Around 80% of the 1.1 billion smokers worldwide live in developing countries, where the health and resulting economic burdens weigh especially heavily.

Clearly, much more needs to be done globally in terms of tobacco education and behavior change. Given that healthcare marketers and agencies are experts in changing attitudes, perceptions, and behaviors around health, we should be in the vanguard with respect to communicating the persistent nature of this crisis and the variety of available solutions that have been proven to make a positive difference.