News @ JSI

Craig Burgess Joins Gavi CSO Constituency Board

April 3, 2018

Equity and integration for health system strengthening are Craig Burgess’s--senior technical officer, John Snow Research & Training Inc. (JSI) and Gavi CSO board alternate--two main passions. Recognizing that immunisation can be at the core of driving both of these agendas, Craig has been an enthusiastic champion of vaccines and their delivery for over 20 years.

As a technical adviser, Craig works with some of the world’s biggest partners in immunization and global health to develop projects that will have the greatest effect on the provision of essential health services that target the most vulnerable. This includes analyzing and providing evidence to help develop essential health care packages in the context of universal health care, and supporting the introduction of new vaccines. Further, with his health policy, planning, and financing background, Craig helps develop the evidence needed by policy makers to inform their decision-making about how much new technologies (such as vaccines) will cost to sustainably fund and deliver. This analysis is essential for making sure that vaccines are affordable and actually reach those who need them most.

Craig is a trained physician and has always had an interest in infectious diseases. Studying in St Andrews, Manchester, and Liverpool in the UK, he is one of the few of his classmates (if not the only one!) who now works in global public health. Starting his international career with MSF, he worked in South Sudan, Afghanistan, and Myanmar on projects focused on primary health care, maternal and child health for displaced populations, and infectious disease control. These first positions sparked his interest in the role of immunization from a prevention of infectious disease perspective; he then went on to work in the South East Asia WHO Regional Office on immunization systems for a number of years and has worked for UNICEF in Vietnam on integration and primary health care. All of his projects have worked toward the goal of universal health coverage.

The Gavi board alternate role is not Craig’s first encounter with the Gavi Alliance. He worked for Gavi from 2006 to 2010, when the decision was first made for Gavi to proactively engage and fund civil society as one of the Gavi Alliance’s key partners. Back then, the civil society engagement with Gavi was through a small informal working group. One of Craig’s proudest achievements is being part of this critical relationship at the start, especially seeing what it has turned into. The Gavi CSO constituency now has over 4,000 civil society members, which is supported by a 16-member steering committee.

So why apply to be the CSO board alternate? Since his experience setting up Gavi’s engagement with CSOs, he has remained passionate about wanting to represent the voices of the vulnerable, ensuring that opinions and experiences of the people who miss out on immunisation are heard because they are the ultimate beneficiaries of all Gavi policies and must be listened too. He is enthusiastic about the diversity of other CSO partners on the Gavi Steering Committee. “It is a privilege to work with so many different people with varied perspectives and backgrounds who are passionate about change.”

Looking ahead, Craig believes there is one main challenge that the Gavi CSO constituency and Gavi CSO board members can help the world deal with – promoting the understanding of the value of civil society. CSOs play a critical role in immunization and universal health care. They can deliver vaccines, where government services are not able to reach or are inadequate; provide technical support to service delivery; speak up on behalf of those who cannot; design and monitor services to make sure they reach every last child; and can hold government and donors accountable for their commitments. Too often though, their role is overlooked and underestimated. Their role in highlighting governments and partners when they are underperforming or failing to provide services is not always welcome, but without greater accountability for immunization, children will continue to miss their life-saving vaccines.

This post originally appeared on the Gave CSO Constituency for Immunisation and Stronger Health Systems blog