October 2023 – Senior Global Immunization Program and Policy Expert supporting USAID’s Office of Maternal and Child Health and Nutrition through GHTASC
With 27 years of experience, Folake Olayinka is a Senior Global Immunization Program and Policy Expert with GHTASC and currently serves as the Immunization Technical Lead for USAID’s Office of Maternal and Child Health and Nutrition. Starting out as a medical doctor, she soon realized that her true calling was in public health, where global and country-level policies and strategies can influence entire communities and impact their health outcomes at scale. “I started my public health career in HIV/AIDS programs, then went on to focus on Maternal Child Health, and then Polio eradication programs,” Folake explains. From there, she focused on broader, country-level routine immunization before becoming project director for one of the largest Malaria programs in Africa at the time.
“For the past eight years I have been working globally and supporting multi-country immunization programs with a focus on policy formulation, capacity building, strengthening routine immunization systems, and primary health care.” This work has also included serving as an advisor on several regional and global immunization advisory groups, including as a member of the WHO’s African Regional Immunization Technical Advisory Group (RITAG) and Strategic Advisory Group of Experts on Immunization, where she also serves as the alternate chair for the COVID 19 vaccination working group. Folake is currently the co-chair of the Global IA2030 Working Group on Immunization and Primary Health Care.
In 2020, Folake returned to support USAID as immunization lead for the Office of Maternal and Child Health and Nutrition, providing technical leadership to global immunization policies and strategies to strengthen country immunization systems and primary health care. Folake and her colleagues are striving to close the policy to program gaps that can impact equitable access and uptake of immunizations around the globe.
Folake is committed to prioritizing each individual country’s context and best practices. “I most enjoy working with countries and Missions to tailor their programs to maximize impact. I also try to bring a broader primary health care and health system lens to my work.”
When asked how her identity informs her work, she explains that “as a Nigerian American woman, I do not often find people that look like me in these global health platforms. While I believe this is gradually changing, much more intentionality is needed to ensure global health reflects the community it serves. I bring first-hand experience from the countries that global health is serving and am using my voice and platform to elevate issues, and bring out the most effective solutions. There is also the inequity of women leadership in health–I would like to contribute to changing that in my lifetime.”
Beginning in January of 2024, Folake will begin serving as a GHTASC supervisor in addition to her current role. “I hope to bring supportive and catalytic supervision that helps ensure supervisees can do their best work, feel empowered, and grow to the next level in their careers.”