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Debora B. Freitas López Named New Executive Director at the Johns Hopkins Center for Communication Programs


Debora B. Freitas López, MS, a global leader in social and behavior change communication with experience across Latin America, the Caribbean, Africa, and Asia, has been chosen as the new executive director of the Johns Hopkins Center for Communication Programs. The Center is based at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.

The Brazilian-born, Virginia-raised Freitas López brings 20-plus years of experience in international development and social and behavior change communication (SBCC) to the role. She will become the fourth executive director in the Center’s more than 35-year history. She joins CCP on March 6.

“We are thrilled to welcome Debora to the Bloomberg School,” said Dean Ellen MacKenzie, PhD, ScM. “Her experience and passion make her ideally suited to lead CCP in its continued work to harness the power of communication and community partnerships to advance healthy behaviors around the world. As executive director, Debora will chart a strong course for the future and help the terrific team at CCP make an even greater impact.”

Freitas López comes to CCP from University Research Co., LLC (URC), in Chevy Chase, Maryland, outside Washington D.C., where she oversees its Global, Latin America and Caribbean, and West Africa regional portfolio. In this position, she has led the development and implementation of the regional portfolio’s long- and short-term strategic technical and growth vision.

At CCP, she will manage more than $100 million in annual programming around the world and more than 700 employees based in Baltimore and around the world.

“As a global thought leader, the Center for Communication Programs is always pushing evidence-based, culturally appropriate SBCC and knowledge management to higher levels and is engaging others in the field to do the same,” says Freitas López. “I cannot wait to join the renowned team and get started.”

Freitas López chairs the Global Alliance for Social and Behaviour Change, of which CCP is a member, serves on FP2030’s Family Planning High Impact Practices Technical Expert Group, and recently concluded her second term on the Steering Committee for the Social and Behavior Working Group of the Roll Back Malaria Partnership to End Malaria.

Last year, she was chosen to be part of the 2022 North American Cohort for WomenLift Health’s Leadership Journey, an initiative designed to support women through the challenges and opportunities of advancing to senior leadership positions in global health. Her project focused on diversifying leadership through a behavior-led systems thinking approach.

Freitas López received her BS/BA in chemistry/physics from the University of Virginia in 1998, and an MS in Health Evaluation Services/Epidemiology from Virginia in 2000. As a student, she did community outreach with migrant workers in central Virginia. Another early job had her evaluate community health programs in the Northern Virginia area. When she identified gaps in services, she was encouraged to develop programs to meet those needs. She credits her experience during these early years as the nexus to her shift into health promotion and health education. She later worked on national-level health communications programs, and eventually shifted to working on social and behavior change programs in health and other sectors.

Freitas López’s career has centered on working to institutionalize evidence-based solutions with the aim of making communities, households, and families more resilient. Her portfolio includes successfully leading the development, implementation, and management of multi-level, multi-million-dollar initiatives in numerous countries, alongside public and private sector partners.

Among her many roles, Freitas López has worked with URC’s Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Committee and co-led URC’s Global Health Security Working Group.

“Debora is committed to our shared values of inclusion, diversity, anti-racism and equity, blended uniquely between an anti-racism and anti-colonialism approach. She will further propel CCP’s leadership in these areas, both domestically and globally in countries where we work,” says Rajiv N. Rimal, PhD, MA, chair of the School’s Department of Health, Behavior and Society, where CCP sits.

Freitas López has also managed teams in the United States and abroad in implementing effective social and behavior change-focused and integrated programs in maternal, newborn, and child health; family planning and reproductive health; infectious diseases such as malaria and HIV/AIDS; among others. For pandemic response and preparedness, she has supported ministries during H1N1 and COVID-19 outbreaks.

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Media contacts: Stephanie Desmon and Kristine Henry