Assel Jabassova joined WHO in 2017 and works as a liaison consultant at the WHO European Center for Primary Health Care in Almaty, Kazakhstan. With a keen and creative eye for detail, language and art, he also leads his own creative agency called Text and City. When he needs a break from juggling multiple things at once, he sits in his favorite chair with one of his books – or watches Indiana Jones.
What is your background?
‘I studied international journalism, French, art and culture. I was working at a modern art center, full of creative energy, surrounded by all these wonderful people in the art world – a phenomenon that flourished in Kazakhstan at the beginning of this century. Many of them became icons and legends in the country of Kazakhstan and other regions. That’s also where I met my best friends, and we’ve been friends for over 20 years now. This was the happiest time of my life. At one point I started working in the world of glossy magazines, working at Harper’s Bazaar as a culture editor, then going to Esquire, Cosmopolitan and other women’s magazines. I traveled the world and met many interesting people.
What brought you to WHO?
After leaving the world of women’s magazines and having my second child, I decided to open my own creative agency, starting with a small team. Working as a freelancer was the best for me: it was challenging work, but it also meant I could be my own boss. One day, a friend of mine met a WHO official who was looking for a local group to make a video about basic health care, and the friend told him, “You should meet Assel!” The rest is history.
What was it like to leave the world of fashion for health?
Actually it wasn’t a big change. In women’s magazines we covered many topics related to health, such as sex education, disease prevention, breast cancer or obesity, to name just a few. Women’s health around the world has been under-appreciated and under-covered, and I pushed for more coverage of these topics. We wanted to create something that was useful for our readers, and I think we did it well. Today, I feel that I can use my creative side at the WHO European Center for Primary Health Care, together with all my wonderful colleagues. We are very smart as a group. In 2020, we introduced a medical information display, e.g. There are many ways to spread the word about the importance of primary health care.
A talk show?
Yes! It was very interesting. After the idea was born, we had many discussions about the shape. We were able to decide that we didn’t need speeches or teleprompters: we wanted to describe real events and the testimony of experts and those who care for the health of others. In December 2020 we broadcast Lets Talk Primary Health Care for the first time. It targets policy makers, advocates and health professionals in the WHO European Region, and all sessions are available online. And the response has been great!
What motivates you?
It’s about people. We once did a photo story on a health worker who works with mothers and their newborns in remote areas. It was minus 20 degrees Celsius, in the middle of winter. The hospital bus brought us and the doctor to visit a family who had just welcomed their third son. I will always remember that hot morning, with snow everywhere. The family’s home was simple, but warm and comfortable inside. The temperature difference was amazing. Being there, seeing the good work done by a healthcare worker and feeling the joy of a family – it’s the little moments that stay with you.
It’s also inspiring to work with creative, smart people – especially smart women. They are very good at what they do, in an integrated way, and are often not afraid to try new things. The talk show is a great example of what can be done by thinking outside the box. More importantly, this team is proof that compassion and good team spirit combined with emotional intelligence can move mountains.
Which book is at the top of your pile?
It’s this great book called Invisible Women by Caroline Criado Perez, full of facts about how women have been treated as invisible throughout history. I’m in the middle and it’s so annoying and so good.
Last question. your favorite movie?
My father is a geologist. At the moment, they are busy saving the Aral Sea, creating water ponds for the endangered Saiga deer. When I was a kid, we used to go hang out with him – maybe that’s why I love Indiana Jones. [laughs]. Whenever I’m sad or sick and can’t get off the couch, I watch Indiana Jones movies. My husband doesn’t get it at all, and my kids don’t at all, but that’s my thing.
WHO Center for Primary Health Care (Almaty, Kazakhstan)
- Number of employees: 12
- The Center is part of WHO/Europe’s Division of Country Health Policies and Systems and serves as a center of excellence in health policy. It supports Member States in their efforts to promote basic human health care for all. His work focuses on topics that emerged during the pandemic and post-pandemic such as change, such as using different strategies, developing health care systems, strengthening public health management, and more.
- The Center is made up of a group of public health professionals, economists, health professionals, data scientists, academics and practitioners who share a common interest in medicine and society.
- The Center, which was established in 2016, is located in Almaty, where the Alma-Ata Declaration was signed in 1978, is seen as the most important event in the twentieth century in public health, and identifies primary health care as the key to access. about the goal of Health for All.
- Primary care is health care that is received in the community, often from family doctors, community nurses, psychiatrists, social workers and other health professionals. It should be available to everyone in a way that is acceptable to them, and at a price that the region and the country can afford.