Health reporting by the news media is a particularly important area in the dissemination of vital public health information. Effective and accurate health reporting can influence policy and practice, arouse debate on health issues of pertinent public health importance, and provide relevant information necessary to inform the design, implementation and evaluation of health programs. It is out of this realization that MakSPH-CDC Fellowship Program initiated a course to improve the quality of health reporting among members of the news media and health communication practitioners in Uganda. The objective of the course is to improve the ability of reporters, journalists, and other health communication specialists to effectively report on health issues.
The first group of journalists to participate in this course was drawn from various media houses including radio (Bilal FM, Better FM, Radio Kagadi FM, STAR FM and UBC Radio), newspapers (Rupiny, Etop, Bukedde, The New Vision, Daily Monitor, and the Red Pepper) and TV (WBS TV and UBC TV). Twenty seven (27) journalists participated in the course which ran for five days, from May 28th – June 1st, 2012.
The training introduced journalists to the basic concepts in statistics and epidemiology, with a focus on understanding what the concepts mean and how to use them in reporting. Other topics covered included the role of journalism in public health, identifying credible sources of health information, how to interpret and report research findings, common errors in health reporting, health journalism, the role of male circumcision in HIV prevention, and integration of policy issues in health reporting, among others. The training was well received and appreciated by the trainees. One participant commented: “I just want to thank the organizers for giving me a chance to train and I know I am going to be a better journalist”.