Fusing journalism and TB – telling the stories as they are

Mainstreaming health news – the challenges

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Communicating on health is a constant challenge. There are doctors, scientists, researchers, academicians and grassroots workers constantly working behind the scenes, trying to make the world a healthier place to live in. And there are the communicators who are getting news out on what all these people are doing. And yet, there are gaps.

Scientists tend to communicate with other scientists, academicians with others like them and so on. Where is the convergence? Who communicates with the lay people, the general readers, and those who actually benefit from all the research and advancements? Who acts as that vital information bridge that enables hope for those suffering from illnesses that need the benefits of research? It’s the health communicators or the health journalists. And they have the toughest job, because they are most often not technically or academically qualified to communicate on health. They have to learn on the job. They constantly grapple with terminology that is difficult to understand; they struggle to access reliable data and most often, also struggle with inadequate knowledge on the topics that they are expected to or want to write about.

But health communicators are important stakeholders who need to be constantly engaged with in order to be able to mainstream health communication in an accurate and credible manner. But this is easier said than done. What health journalists generally get is press releases and/or complex information which they are then expected to convert into information that will make sense to the general reader. The result is often incomplete, inadequate or even inaccurate communication – a situation that is worse than getting no information at all.

The situation therefore merits greater exposure to developments around health issues and deeper interaction with experts who can demystify the complexities associated with the science of diseases. This interaction and exposure can and does translate in easy-to-understand information and awareness among those affected/infected/afflicted with disease. This can happen only when health communicators/journalists become an integral part of the health sector and and are not considered mere appendages, albeit necessary ones to the issue.

Bharathi Ghanashyam

Written by JournalistsAgainstTB

September 11, 2011 at 2:01 pm

Posted in TB and Media

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