The Longer You Stay, the Less You Know

Cristin Marona (’10), senior development advisor at the global management consulting group Palladium, is celebrating four years in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania—or as she calls it, her “Tanza-versary.”

That’s twice as long as the average post for global health workers, she says: “Sometimes the longer you stay, the less you know.”

Being humble and open when approaching any place, population, or issue in public health is a lesson Marona says she learned from the late global health professor Bill Bicknell. “He told this story from when he was at the Boston Public Health Commission,” Marona says, “about looking outside and seeing that at the farmer’s market every day a number of watermelons were thrown in the dumpster.”

So the story goes, Bicknell began harvesting those free watermelons. “Eventually the janitor around the building said to him, ‘You know, Bill, there are women that actually depend on that, they go every day and they pick out those watermelons and that’s what they feed their families with.’

“He always told us to remember the watermelon lady,” Marona says. “In any program that you run, in any intervention, there will always be unpredictable outcomes. Who are you not thinking of when you’re designing your program?”

Marona learned to look out for watermelon ladies at SPH. In Swaziland—her first post with Palladium, before Tanzania—she also learned to look for king’s praisers.

From 2011 to 2012, Marona was the communications coordinator on a male circumcision program called called Soka Uncobe. The goal was to circumcise adult men 15 to 45 in Swaziland in 10 months. Circumcision reduces HIV infection risk up to 60 percent, and Marona says there was tremendous local support for the program—but few men were coming forward to be circumcised.

One of the program’s supporters was Msandi Kababa, the official praiser to the king of Swaziland—and the country’s top musical artist. “So one day Msandi came in and said, ‘I really want to support the program,’” Marona says.

Read the full article on the BUSPH website.