Meet a CARE Expert: Marnie Davidson

Marnie Davidson is CARE Canada’s health adviser and program manager for maternal, newborn and child health.

For nearly 10 years, Marnie has been living in Ottawa and actively engaged in the field of health and development. She has a wide range of global and Canadian public health programming experience notably in the areas of HIV, public health system strengthening, and maternal and newborn health, managing projects in Canada, Eastern Europe, Central Asia and Africa. Currently, she is the board vice-president for the Interagency Coalition for AIDS and Development and is a member of the steering committee for the Canadian Conference on Global Health. Prior to CARE, Marnie led various global health initiatives with the Canadian Public Health Association and the Canadian Society for International Health. Holding a Masters degree in European and Russian Studies from Carleton University, she enjoys leading innovations in program performance measurement along with pursuing her ongoing research interests including social determinants of global health and health equity.

Why did you join CARE?

I joined CARE in September 2012. I saw an opportunity to run CARE’s maternal, newborn and child health program and I decided it was a good occasion to move to an organization focused on development when approaching health programming. It was a nice transition for me.

Can you describe your role at CARE Canada?

I lead the maternal, newborn and child health (MNCH) portfolio. So, I have funding in four countries (Tanzania, Malawi, Zimbabwe and Ethiopia). In this role, I manage and provide the operational oversight for those grants, and I provide technical support in the areas, particularly in the Tanzania project, around health system strengthening.

I also advise on project development in the health sector and I am in charge of networking in the health field for CARE Canada. So, I am CARE’s representative to the Canadian Network on Maternal, Newborn and Child Health, I am the president to the board of directors on the Interagency Coalition on AIDS and Development, and I sit on the steering committee for the Canadian Conference on Global Health.

Can you tell us more about one of your projects?

I will talk about the Tanzania project because it is nice and discreet. First, it takes place in one geographical area, the Tabora region of Tanzania. Second, it is comprehensive in the sense that it is covering the entire region, so all six districts are engaged. Over 80 per cent of the primary health care facilities are involved in the training and providing equipment for maternal health. We are also doing comprehensive community programming and community health strengthening attached to that, as well as working with governments to improve maternal and reproductive health services.

I think that as far as impact, it is a huge investment by the Canadian government and CARE Canada, thanks to the support of our generous donors. What we have been able to do in three years in terms of bringing a project to scale from almost nothing is pretty impressive.

What do you like about working at CARE?

I really like the fact that it has a strong development focus. It is intersectoral and I think there are a lot of opportunities to bring in different sectors into development.

I come from a public health background and it is really nice to be able to work with colleagues from a gender perspective, from a food security perspective, and look more comprehensively at how we do development programming and integrating different systems with the government, community, private sector to really have a larger impact and leverage the different programs that CARE does.

The experience has been both a good intellectual learning environment and, as far as a development approach, it has been great.

Is there a moment while working for CARE that made you feel extremely proud?

CARE has been an incredible experience in my life. Getting to know CARE as an organization and working with the extraordinary teams that we have in the country offices has been just a phenomenal privilege and I think one of CARE’s strengths is its human resources. CARE has dedicated people who are not only really excited to be working with CARE, but are incredibly good at what they do on the ground.

Based on your experience, what would you say is CARE’s greatest strength?

Its ability to leverage the different programs to really build on a sustainable development model for the communities we are working in. We are not just coming in for a short amount of time, but we carry results into the long-term.

As a kid, what did you want to be when you grew up?

I don’t know if a really had a dream job when I was a kid, but my dad just sent me this massive package of artwork that you do when you are in school and, when I opened it, I saw this grade 7 project I did on the USSR and I think that I always wanted to work with Eastern Europe, hence my degree in Russian studies.

But it’s funny because that has changed drastically over the past ten years, and I have built a career on the health sector, which I really love.

WATCH THIS: Marnie spoke with CTV’s Power Play about the importance of investments in maternal and child health.


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