Debra Jackson


Debra JacksonI am currently the inaugural Takeda Chair in Global Child Health and Co-Director of the Maternal Adolescent Reproductive Child Health (MARCH) Centre at London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine London (LSHTM), UK. Previously I held the position of Senior Health Advisor and Chief of the Implementation Research and Delivery Science Unit, Health Section, UNICEF, which focused on maternal, newborn, child and adolescent health programme research, data and digital health. I am also an Extraordinary Professor at the School of Public Health, University of the Western Cape, South Africa.

My qualifications include nursing, public health, epidemiology and biostatistics. My interests are maternal and child health, infant nutrition, civil registration and vital statistics, health systems, community health workers, imbedded implementation research, MCH data and digital health. While in South Africa I served as principal investigator for a range of research projects, including a multi-country trial on promoting exclusive breastfeeding and the National South African Prevention of Mother to Child Transmission of HIV Evaluation. My current research is as Co-PI on a 10 million EU/UKRI project on climate/heat impacts on maternal, newborn and child health. I also serve on multiple global and WHO policy and advisory groups.

I lived in South Africa from 2000-2013 and have experience working across Africa, Asia, Pacific Islands and USA. My experience includes clinical nursing, state level public health practice (Micronesia), applied public health research (San Diego, South Africa) and global MCH programs and policy (UNICEF & LSHTM).

I have been an active member of APHA since 1989 and maintained my service to APHA even when living outside the USA. For example, serving as MCH Section Chair and Chair of APHA Nominations Committee while living in South Africa. I have held multiple APHA-wide and Section leadership positions and was an active member of my affiliate when I lived in New York City (including serving on New York City Public Health Association Executive Board 2016-2018).

I have three professional passions:

  1. Health and Well-being of Women, Children and Families
  2. Supporting students and emerging public health professionals
  3. APHA – my professional home and family

Candidate Statement

APHA has been my professional home for 43 years. I have held leadership positions across APHA from which I bring a wealth of experience and institutional memory. However, I also recognize we must be open to new ideas to maintain APHA relevance in a constantly changing social and political landscape and support emerging public health leaders who will protect APHA’s practice, research, and policy future.

Policy: I bring extensive APHA policy-related experience through my years on Governing Council and my service on global policy groups. Recently JPC has positively streamlined the APHA policy process! However, I do wonder if we are stifling debate. I am interested in exploring opportunities to expand engagement and debate while not bogging down processes.

Management: Financial stability must be the priority. As APHA recovers economically post-COVID, we must continue flexible budgeting processes. Going forward we should focus on major revenue generators (annual meeting), and alternative sources of revenue (grants, development, digital opportunities). Also, critical will be recognizing and increasing collaborative efforts, internal and external, to ensure Association success.

Program: As a volunteer organization we must deliver action from our boards, sections, caucuses, forums, committees, and operations. For this, we must support APHA staff and assure leadership and members engage to ensure smooth functioning of APHA programs.

Membership & Deployment: We know membership is the key to APHA relevance and survival. In 1996, I started the first MCH student program, which evolved into a model student fellows’ program. APHA has built strong student engagement and we must hold this focus. Also, recent membership engagement programs and forthcoming strategic plan will be opportunities to strengthen APHA as a member-driven association.

During my time at APHA, I have found more than just colleagues but friends across the entire organization. I would be honored to continue to serve you!!

“We are the ones we have been waiting for” (Alice Walker)

View Debra Jackson's CV (PDF)

Response to Written Questions for Candidates (PDF)