Healing the rift : an assessment of a World Health Organisation's media communication programme for health scientists

Baleta, Adele (2006-04)

Thesis (MPhil)--University of Stellenbosch, 2006.

Thesis

ENGLISH ABSTRACT: Health scientists agree that the media is a crucial conduit for communicating life-saving, preventative and curative health messages to a wider audience. They also concur that they are the gatekeepers, and the responsibility of communicating their findings and health information to the public rests with them. And yet, their relationship with journalists is often unhealthy and in need of attention. Many health scientists lack knowledge and understanding about who the media are, and what they require to do the job of reporting ethically and professionally. They often lack the skills needed to frame simple, succinct messages timeously, especially on controversial issues such as vaccines and drug safety, immunisation and drug treatment for infectious diseases such as HIV/AIDS. This study argues that health scientists/professionals globally, irrespective of culture, ethnicity, creed, language or media systems, need training on how to communicate with the media in the interests of public health. This is especially so in the modern world with its complex, high-speed communication. The objective of the study was to assess the impact of a WHO media communication training programme for health scientists worldwide. More specifically, the study sought to shed light on whether the training shifted their perceptions and attitudes to the media. And, if so, in what way? It also aimed to find out if the trainees learned any skills on how to deal with reporters. The research methodology was qualitative. A review of the literature, to establish current thinking in the field, was followed by interviews with health professionals. The interviewees are from China, South Africa and Ghana and received the same basic training either in South Africa, China or Sri Lanka. Some were trained in 2005, others in 2004 and others before that. Most had been trained together with participants from other countries. Two focus groups were conducted in China before and after training. Included, is an account of the aims and objectives of each module of the actual training. The study also made use of WHO documents and news and feature articles from newspapers, radio and the internet. Most participants had never had media communication training but had been interviewed by reporters. While some had positive experiences, others felt bruised by their interactions with journalists. After training, however, they registered a shift in attitude toward feeling more positive and less fearful of the media. They felt more confident and better equipped to engage with journalists. Most participants desired more training to consolidate the skills that they had learned. Some had managed to put the training to good use by developing similar programmes in their own country. Others who were trained more recently were enthusiastic about the prospect of sharing ideas with colleagues. Those who were unlikely to deal with the media directly said they felt they could at last contribute to discussions on the media in the workplace. The WHO training, albeit a first step aimed at bridging the gap between health professionals and journalists, goes a long way in addressing the frustrations and the complexities of dealing with the media. Health professionals want to communicate because they need to reach their target population, the ordinary person in the street. Training and facilitation can empower health professionals to deal constructively with the media in getting health messages to the public. This training programme, which imparts practical skills including how to prepare and manage interviews, could be adapted to meet the needs of scientists from different disciplines.

AFRIKAANSE OPSOMMING: Gesondheidswetenskaplikes is dit eens dat die media ‘n uiters belangrike middel is om lewensreddende, voorkomende en genesende gesondheidsboodskappe aan ‘n groter gehoor oor te dra. Hulle stem ook saam dat hulle die hekwagters is en die verantwoordelikheid het om hul bevindinge en gesondheidsinligting aan die publiek oor te dra. Tog is hul verhouding met joernaliste dikwels ongesond en sorgwekkend. Talle gesondheidswetenskaplikes het geen kennis en begrip van wie die media is en wat hulle nodig het om hul taak – verslaggewing – eties en professioneel te verrig nie. Hulle kort dikwels die vaardighede om eenvoudige, saaklike boodskappe betyds te formuleer, veral as dit kom by omstrede aangeleenthede soos veilige entstowwe en medisyne, immunisering en medisyne vir die behandeling van aansteeklike siektes. Hierdie studie voer aan dat wetenskaplikes/gesondheidsberoepslui wêreldwyd – ongeag kultuur, etnisiteit, geloof, taal of mediastelsels – ‘n behoefte het aan opleiding om beter met die media te kommunikeer ter wille van openbare gesondheid. Dit is veral belangrik vir die ingewikkelde en snelle kommunikasie van die moderne wêreld. Die doel van die studie was om die uitwerking van ‘n wêreldwye opleidingsprogram van die WGO oor kommunikasie met die media te bepaal. Die studie het meer spesifiek probeer lig werp op die vraag of die opleiding hul begrip van en ingesteldheid teenoor die media verander het. En, indien wel, op watter manier? Dit het ook probeer vasstel of deelnemers enige vaardighede aangeleer het oor hoe om met verslaggewers om te gaan. ‘n Kwalitatiewe navorsingsmetodiek is gevolg. Bestaande literatuur is bestudeer om huidige denkrigtings op die gebied te bepaal, waarna onderhoude met gesondheidsberoepslui asook ‘n TV-gesondheidsverslaggewer van Beijing, China, gevoer is. Die ondervraagdes kom van China, Suid-Afrika en Ghana en het dieselfde basiese opleiding in Suid-Afrika, China of Sri Lanka ondergaan. Sommige is in 2005 opgelei, party in 2004 en ander vroeër. Die meeste is saam met deelnemers van ander lande opgelei. Twee fokusgroepe is voor en ná opleiding in China bestudeer. ‘n Verslag oor die oogmerke en doelwitte van elke module van die werklike opleiding is ingesluit. Die studie het ook gebruik gemaak van WGO-dokumente, nuus- en artikels uit nuusblaaie, die radio en die internet. Die meeste deelnemers het nooit opleiding in mediakommunikasie gehad nie, hoewel verslaggewers al onderhoude met hulle gevoer het. Terwyl dit vir sommige ‘n aangename ondervinding was, het ander nie goeie herinneringe aan hul interaksie met joernaliste nie. Ná opleiding het hulle egter getuig van ‘n positiewer gesindheid teenoor en minder vrees vir die media. Die meerderheid van die deelnemers wou graag verdere opleiding hê om hul pas verworwe vaardighede uit te bou. Party kon selfs soortgelyke programme in hul eie lande ontwikkel. Van die meer onlangse deelnemers was geesdriftig oor die vooruitsig om gedagtes met kollegas te wissel. Diegene wat waarskynlik nie veel met die media te doen sou hê nie, het gesê hulle kon nou minstens by die werk aan gesprekke oor die media deelneem. Hoewel dit maar die eerste tree is om die gaping tussen gesondheidsberoepslui en joernaliste te oorbrug, slaag die WGO se opleiding in ‘n groot mate daarin om die frustrasies en verwikkeldhede van omgang met die media te oorkom. Mense in die gesondheidsberoepe wil graag kommunikeer omdat hulle hul teikenbevolking – die gewone mense – moet bereik. Opleiding en tussentrede kan hulle toerus om konstruktief met die media om te gaan ten einde gesondheidsboodskappe aan die publiek oor te dra. Hierdie opleidingsprogram kan aangepas word om in die behoeftes van wetenskaplikes in verskeie vakgebiede te voorsien.

Please refer to this item in SUNScholar by using the following persistent URL: http://hdl.handle.net/10019.1/17344
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