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What’s my story?

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JATB @ ECTMIH2017  – Episode 1 – 18 October 2017DLtNzC_X0AE53ub.jpg large

JATB participated in a debate moderated by Andrew Jack, Financial Times at ECTMIH2017, held in Antwerp, Belgium on 18 October 2017. The topic was actually a question – Are journalists and scientists failing global health?

As part of the debate, I was asked what health story I would most like to report on. I loved the question as it gave me the opportunity to give a mini lecture to the audience!

My answer was as much my own wish list, as it was an appeal to the audience present, who were researchers, NGO leaders and scientists. They held the real stories; they were connected to people. They held the richness of experience that I as a journalist wanted to get a glimpse of. I wanted to be a part of their successes, their frustrations, their joys and their triumphs. I wanted to see the people they worked with and feel the joy of patients when they were told they were now cured, before reporting on them. Equally I also wanted to understand their roadblocks and tell the world about them, so they could be cleared.

Press releases, not conversations

And yet, what do journalists get?  We are approached when the stories are over, the dramatic twists and turns, the huddling together, the sharing and caring and the tough journey that patients undertook along with the community working so hard to change their lives has ended. We get press releases – bland 500 word press releases that are sterile and devoid of narratives that tell the real stories. It’s little wonder that press releases get sub-optimum attention, because they’ve completely left out the STORY!

Press releases have their place in the world. They serve to inform people of news they are hungry to hear – successful trials on drugs that can now bring relief to hundreds of people waiting for relief, or vaccines that won’t even allow people to fall sick. But press releases do not satisfy all the time. I want to get into the gut of a story; I want to be part of the journey however tough it is and I want to then tell those stories.

Do journalists really miss the story?

If it appears, as it often does, that journalists are failing the real causes that matter, in this case, global health, it is because we were never made a part of the problem. We are always perceived as the solution. I ask – how can the media solve anything, when it never knew the problem in the first place? How can the media report on conversations of which it was never a part?

I have conflicts in my mind which I want resolved before I write about them with any conviction or credibility. What is global health for instance? The most commonly accepted definition is this – “Global health is the health of populations in the global context; it has been defined as “the area of study, research and practice that places a priority on improving health and achieving equity in health for all people worldwide.” If this were true, then why do inequities exist? Why does health mean one thing in a developed country and another in a developing country? What is the world doing about these inequities, besides talking about them and issuing declarations, making pledges and promises which very often do not go to fulfillment? How many journalists feel good about reporting unchanging situations story after story and creating editorial and reader fatigue?

I want to ask hard questions

As a journalist, who often dons the role of an activist, I want to often ask after reporting on an issue that has remained unchanged for decades. Why are governments not held accountable? I want to report a story of a country that has dallied on cutting red-tape and sanctioning the use of a new drug that holds promise for thousands of patients, being put on the carpet by the world community.  I want to write about sanctions being imposed against a country for not enabling access to basic healthcare for all, despite being supported and funded for it. If we can resort to sanctions out of paranoia about nuclear wars, why can’t we do it for health? Let us remember that preventable and curable diseases are killing more people than a nuclear war will ever do. Let us remember that global ill-health can cause more danger than global health. Even countries that have achieved health for all, can quickly become vulnerable, owing to the seamless world we live in. Centres of excellence never helped, unless their successes are quickly upscaled and made the order of life.

The story I want to report

I want to report that the circle of life – birth, life and death, which has equity and affects all of us, has now become equal for all on earth in the true sense. When we achieve that, I hope to be around to report it. That’s my story!

Bharathi Ghanashyam

 

 

Written by JournalistsAgainstTB

October 27, 2017 at 4:52 pm

Posted in TB and Media

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