NCDC, BA-N, AFENET Task.Journalists On Effective Reportage Of Health Issues 

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By; PATRICK TITUS, Uyo

Towards effective control of health related issues in Nigeria to save lives, the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), USAID-Breakthrough ACTION Nigeria (BA-N) and the African Field Epidemiology Network (AFENET) have stressed the need for journalists to report accurate information to the public especially on issues relating to health or disease outbreak.

The Director General of NCDC, Dr Ifedayo Adetifa raised the need, while flagging off the 2023 Media Epidemiology, Infodemiology, and Social Behaviour Change/Risk Communication (EIS) fellowship for journalists in Abuja through zoom.

Adetifa noted that with the rapidly evolving situation of disease outbreak and pandemic, journalists who play important role in communicating the information to the public should be equipped with the background knowledge, skills and technical capability to understand what is being thrown at them. 

He added that it was important for journalists to understand what is required of them in their reportage whether it is of new research, result of drug trials or vaccine trials or things of the test nature of pathogens.

Speaking on the fellowship, NCDC DG said the fellowship will help journalists, health reporters, and health producers connect with other journalists while equipping them with world-class practical knowledge and relevant skills on proper health reporting.

He added that it would also help them to be better prepared for future outbreak (as disease outbreak is inevitable) saying that training the media professionals in that aspect would help in information management.

He recalled how some hypertensive and diabetic patients lost their lives during the Ebola outbreak following the misinformation churned out without verification that bathing with and drinking water mixed with salt would prevent Ebola disease. 

In her remarks, the Deputy Project Director, USAID-BA-N Dr. Olayinka Umar-Farouk stated that effective communication would support the public to take on healthier behaviors noting that such could be achieved by equipping the media with neccessary information. 

Her statement in parts, “BA-Nigeria believes in the power of the media as one of the most trusted channels of communication for public health messages, especially during public health emergencies. The public listens to and trusts the media. When the public trusts in the source of information they are likely to act and take on the healthy behavior. 

“It is generally acknowledged that how events are covered in the media, particularly during an outbreak of an unknown disease (where fear and panic thrive), shapes what we know, think, and believe. Communication about personal preventive measures and providing the public with correct and true information are imperative during outbreaks as this information empowers the public to take responsibility for their own health. 

“However, there is often uncertainty about the facts and conflicting messages disseminated by the varying media channels, leaving the public with a sense of scepticism relating to health messages.”

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