Dr. Julie Lyn Hall

Head of Health, International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies

Communication Across Cultures in Times of Crisis

Communicating across cultures and persuading people to abandon long-held beliefs, customs and traditions around illness, death and burial rituals has been a critical challenge in controlling and stopping the spread of Ebola in West Africa.  In some areas, up to 60 per cent of new Ebola cases in the 2014-15 epidemic were linked to adherence to traditions that involve direct contact with highly contagious bodies.  While many organizations rallied to provide medical and psychosocial support to Ebola patients and their families, it was most often local Red Cross volunteers -- supported by their international colleagues -- delivering those unpopular messages in their communities, or who were assigned the difficult task of recovering and providing safe yet dignified burial of bodies.  Some volunteers were threatened with violence and many were - and continue to be - outcasts in their communities for having undertaken this life-saving work.

Dr. Julie Lynn Hall, Director of Health and Care at the Geneva-based International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, or IFRC, will discuss these communications issues and solutions. Dr. Hall will also touch on other major international disasters where communication across cultures has been a serious challenge. 


Dr. Julie Lyn Hall’s career in international public health began in 2003 when she served as a Medical Officer in the Global Alert and Response Team at WHO Headquarters during the SARS epidemic. She was then assigned to China to lead the WHO Communicable Disease Surveillance and Response Team from 2003 until 2006.

Following two years as Principal Medical Advisor to the Australian government, Dr. Hall returned to WHO in 2008, where she would spend the next four years working in various global positions, working to prevent the spread of both H1N1 and polio worldwide.

As WHO Representative to the Philippines, Dr. Hall assisted the government to coordinate the immense global health response and ongoing recovery to 2013’s Typhoon Haiyan, as well as developed programs supporting health improvements in vulnerable populations.

In recognition of her outstanding contributions to global public health, Dr. Hall was made a Member of the British Empire (MBE) in 2007 and was elected by her peers to be a Fellow of the Faculty of Public Health in 2008.

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