Centre for Science & Health Communication builds capacity of Ghanaian journalists on infectious diseases reporting

The Centre for Science & Health Communication (CSHC) has taken a significant step towards battling infectious diseases in Ghana by building the capacity of Ghanaian journalists on infectious disease reporting.

The centre, which provides a platform for the dissemination of scientific and health information, has recognized the role that journalists can play in educating the public about infectious diseases.

Infectious diseases pose a significant threat to public health in Ghana, and the lack of knowledge about these diseases has contributed to their rapid spread.

The Centre for Science & Health Communication aims to bridge this knowledge gap by providing journalists with the necessary tools to communicate effectively with the public.

The 1-day capacity building programme for journalists which was held on May 17, 2023 at the West African Centre for Cell Biology of Infectious Pathogens Conference Hall at the campus of the University of Ghana, Legon in Accra brought together twenty-five 25 selected journalists who reports on health/infectious diseases from various media outlets across the sixteen (16) regions of the country.

The beneficiaries were selected from a pool of science journalists across the country who made it successful out of a rigorous selection process when the CSHC earlier opened calls for entries requesting Ghanaian journalists to apply through the submission of 2 of their recently published articles on health/infectious diseases for consideration.

The participants were introduced to the basic concepts of infectious diseases, the process of disease transmission, and how to accurately and effectively report on infectious diseases and outbreaks.

The training also covered the importance of using evidence-based reporting and how to avoid sensationalism, which can lead to misinformation and panic among the public.

The training also exposes the participants to storytelling techniques for science journalism and how they can evaluate news leads and news tips to develop story ideas as well as how to gather and verify factual information or sources regarding infectious disease reporting through interview, observation, and research.

According to the Director of Centre for Science and Health Communication, Dr Bernard Appiah, the overall goal of the workshop is to ensure an enhanced capacity is built of science journalists in the country who can be well-equipped with knowledge and skills to produce stories on infectious diseases.

Dr. Appiah who conducted the training via zoom took the participants through ‘Story Telling Techniques for Science Journalism’ urges them to always prioritize reading research papers, making use of press releases and case studies in order to be able to report effectively on scientific findings.

He emphasized the need for science journalists to adopt the techniques such as “Do the Science”, “Say the Science”, “Show the Science”, “Localize the Science”, “Dramatize the Science” and “Humanize the Science” in order to be able to tell scientific and evidence-based stories.

Dr. Abena Animwaa Yeboah-Banin, Senior Lecturer and Head of Department of Communication Studies at the University of Ghana who took the participants through the presentation and discussion of content analysis of sampled infectious diseases stories advised the participants to utilize the scientific storytelling techniques such as ‘taking audience behind the scenes’, ‘demonstrate the science’, illustrates and examines how the science impacts audience and portrays an individual impacted by the science among others towards production of a scientific content that resonates with quality infectious disease reporting.

For his part, Mr. Francis Korkutse, a freelance journalist urged the participants to always prioritize reporting on infectious diseases.

He highlighted the need for the participants to demonstrate passion and be committed to work always towards production of effective and quality reportage on infectious diseases.

A beneficiary, Mr. Joseph Kobla Wemakor who shared his views in an interview applauded the Centre for Science & Health Communication and its partners for the opportunity to have his capacity built on science and health communication. This, he believes has well positioned him to effectively and efficiently report on infectious diseases in Ghana and beyond.

The programme was moderated by Daniel Kwame Ampofo Adjei, a graduate researcher at the Department of Communication Studies, University of Ghana.

The Centre for Science & Health Communication recognizes that science journalists have a crucial role to play in disseminating accurate information to the public during disease outbreaks.

The centre has, therefore, equipped the journalists with the necessary knowledge and skills to report on infectious diseases in a way that is informative, engaging, and devoid of sensationalism.

One of the key outcomes of the training programme was the development of a network of journalists committed to reporting on infectious diseases. The network will serve as a platform for the exchange of information and ideas, enabling journalists to collaborate and support each other in their reporting.

In addition to the training programme, the Centre for Science & Health Communication has developed an online course on infectious disease reporting. The course is free and open to all journalists in Ghana and provides a comprehensive overview of reporting on infectious diseases, including case studies, practical examples, and best practices.

The Centre for Science & Health Communication is also working with public health experts to ensure that journalists have access to the latest information on infectious diseases.

The centre has established partnerships with the Ministry of Health, Ghana Health Service and other organizations involved in disease control and prevention to provide journalists with up-to-date information and statistics on infectious diseases.

In conclusion, the Centre for Science & Health Communication’s initiative to build the capacity of Ghanaian journalists on infectious disease reporting is a significant step towards battling infectious diseases in Ghana.

Through this initiative, journalists are equipped with the necessary knowledge and skills to report accurately and responsibly on infectious diseases, ultimately helping to educate the public and promote disease prevention.

Source:Joseph Wemakor

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