Rachel Morrison is the Jamaica and Barbados country coordinator for the Global Health Advocacy Incubator’s Obesity Prevention Program.
What has been the biggest challenge you’ve faced as an in-country coordinator?
We build coalitions of key stakeholders to advocate for healthy food policies. Our diverse group of partners brings together different perspectives and strengths, which is a tremendous benefit. Reaching consensus can also be a challenge.
What is the biggest change that has directly resulted from a campaign you worked on?
I was really happy to see that the beverage companies that oppose healthy food policy solutions felt threatened by the “Are You Drinking Yourself Sick?” campaign in Jamaica. The message had a big enough impact that a major drink company stole one of the campaign slogans. In Jamaica, imitation is the biggest form of flattery, so when the company started using the slogan “Choose Juice,” based on our slogan “Choose Water Instead,” we knew people were listening. In public health campaigns, it’s easy to feel that industry has the upper hand because of their extensive resources, so seeing that our message was reaching people was inspiring.
What is something that people would be surprised to learn about you?
I am extremely organized in how I order my work tasks. Every day, I make a list and prioritize tasks based on importance and timelines. When planning activities, I like to think through different execution methods and to build a schedule. My work style is in direct contrast to my personal life, where I plan nothing in advance and live for last-minute adventures.
What are some unique considerations to developing advocacy campaigns in small island countries?
Most big, international food and beverage companies work through distributors and smaller, local businesses brands. Some of them may also have healthy products. So, we have to do our research and think carefully about who we’re partnering with and who we can work with.
Another feature of the region is the importance of direct, one-on-one engagement with ministers of parliament and other policymakers. In other countries, publicly calling out officials may yield results, but in the Caribbean, direct discussion usually gets you further.