Melinda Frost is a leader in global public health, emergency risk communication and community empowerment with a focus on infectious disease, immunization and health systems and security. She is currently the ‘Translate Science’ team lead – Infodemics Pillar for the World Health Organization’s response to COVID-19. She manages the risk communication and community engagement response (RCCE) for the Organization and is part of the Collective Service – a new coordination mechanism for RCCE built from the comparative strengths of WHO, UNICEF, IFRC and GOARN.
Prior to COVID-19, Melinda led RCCE capacity building for WHO under the Pandemic Influenza Preparedness Framework. She established the WHO regional network of RCCE focal points known as the Formidable Officers of RCCE (FORCCE). She provided on the ground support to more than 40 countries across all 6 WHO regions to strengthen preparedness and response capabilities under the International Health Regulations. She designed and co-led the Emergency Communications Network and SocialNet deployment trainings which collectively prepared 300+ media and emergency risk communicators and social and behavioral scientists for deployment. She also designed the WHO European Region’s Emergency Risk Communication 5 – Step capacity building package as well as numerous journalist trainings.
Prior to 2013, Melinda was the Director of Emergencies and Health Communication for the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (U.S. CDC) in Beijing, China for 6 years and developed and led new communications programs from the agency headquarters for more than 10 years. Melinda has also consulted for UNICEF, FAO and IFRC to assess national existing communication capacity, coordinate multi-sector partnerships, develop a communication strategy and facilitate programs to strengthen national and sub-national level communication response.
Melinda’s experience spans more than 25 years as a manager, director of programs, project officer, health communicator, writer, producer, instructional designer and educator. She holds a Master’s degree in Global Public Health, a Master’s degree in Educational Psychology – Cognitive Studies and a Bachelor’s degree in Communications.
The COVID-19 pandemic has been accompanied by a huge flood of disinformation surrounding the virus and the fight against it. The Information chaos wreaked on societies through the accelerated dissemination of misinformation, disinformation, and conspiracy theories has been labelled as an ‘infodemic’ by the WHO. Still, some countries managed to have a successful vaccination strategy with both a fast pace of vaccination and a willingness to get vaccinated. Good strategic communication can save lives.
How to secure trust in vaccinations in a world flooded with disinformation and conspiracy theories? What have been the biggest challenges observed in preparing the societal trust in vaccination and what can we learn from them for the future?